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5 Ways Western Society Deals With Aging That Other Cultures Do Not

Differences in How Westerners View Aging

  • Lose Respect for the Elderly
  • View Aging as Negative
  • Retirement Ends Careers
  • Senior Centers Expected
  • Cosmetic Surgery to Reverse Aging

The aging population can be viewed as being in the golden age or as having one foot in the grave, but this all depends on the developmental psychology of the culture. In many western societies getting old is often feared. This leads people to try to feel and appear young as long as possible. Having this mentality changes the way aging is perceived.

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1. Lose Respect for the Elderly

Since getting old is not favorable, the older one gets the more they are looked down upon by the younger generations. This perception makes westerners deal with aging differently than in most eastern countries. In contrast to many Asian cultures where old means wise, in western mindsets old age means forgetfulness and irrelevancy. They are treated more like children who do not understand the current world due to advanced technology. The fast-changing world has left them behind, so the young generation finds them unresourceful.

2. View Aging as Negative

In addition to losing respect for the elderly, aging, in general, is viewed as negative no matter your age. Birthdays (once you pass 21) are just another year older, so they are often celebrated with sympathy and regret. A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that this negativity may stem from westerner’s priority of personal goals over relationships with family. The older one gets the more they think about what they haven’t accomplished yet.

3. Retirement Ends Careers

Once a certain age is reached, it is normal to stop working. Everyone is different, so many people may not feel the need to end their career, but the pressure to do so ensues. After working, the natural reaction is to keep busy by traveling, finding part-time work, or developing a new hobby. This is a big transition for many people that are used to a full work schedule. In eastern regions of the world, work only ends when it is not physically possible any longer.

4. Senior Centers Expected

Instead of living with family members or being trusted to take care of one self, westerners stick the aging population in senior citizen centers. Most often the costs of these facilities take the elderly’s social security or pension. Although retirement homes offer medical treatment for illnesses like dementia, it does give one a sense of isolation and abandonment. It is also a dreary concept to be placed in a “home” as it is considered to be the last stage before the end.

5. Cosmetic Surgery to Reverse Aging

To combat the signs of aging, there is a trend in western culture to get surgery. It isn’t enough to stay physically fit by eating right and exercising, the outer appearance must also remain vibrant. In the East, wrinkles are a sign of wisdom, but crow’s feet in places like the U.S. means you are out-dated. This idea of beauty is a product of commercialism, from makeup to celebrity airbrushing. Looking young means more opportunity in western society.

Being young has its benefits of physical strength and vitality, but so does maturity. The aging population may be viewed as a degenerative class in the western world, but society should also honor the experience gained with age that is so common in other cultures.

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