5 Cultures Who Celebrate Old Age: What We Can Learn from Them


Many people never think about the culture of age in this country and how we treat our elders. We idolize youth and beauty but casually dismiss or abandon seniors who no longer exhibit these fleeting attributes. There are many downsides to this cultural habit, the largest of which is overlooking all the wisdom and value that those who have experienced more of life can offer.

Every country has a unique collective set of values and viewpoints, which permeates the perspectives of every individual within it. American culture is perhaps one of the most shortsighted when it comes to age. Other cultures are far different. They celebrate age and respect those who have lived on this earth for many, many decades. What is it that these cultures understand that our Western view is missing?

1. Native Americans

There are hundreds of Native American tribes living in different areas of the country. Each has unique beliefs and traditions, including their attitudes towards aging. Many perceive aging and death as a normal part of the life cycle, not as something to be afraid of. The elders passed their knowledge down to the younger members of the tribe, enriching the lives of everyone. The younger members respected their elders for their wisdom and their years of experience. This tradition of learning from the elder members of the tribe has been contributing to the supportive, community-oriented culture that exists in Native American tribes still today. In a sense, elder wisdom has been a unifying force, bonding all of the individuals in the group together.

2. India

In India, you would not only remain a household member as you became older, you would continue to be the head of the household. In return for being cared for by your adult children, you would play a big role in raising your grandchildren. Your opinion would not only be accepted; it would be sought out. You even would have the final world in family disputes. It is no surprise that with this sort of family structure, family is a priority, and everyone benefits from the support and connection family members give to each other.

3. China

If you ever wished you could make your adult children come to see you more often, you will appreciate the “Elderly Rights Law” in China. This law warns adult children against snubbing or neglecting their senior parents. If they fail to visit them frequently, they are at risk of punishment including fines and jail time. Although attitudes have become a little more modern, putting your aging parents in a nursing home is shameful. This has led to a better quality of life for elders in China than in many other parts of the world.

4. Scotland

If your roots go back to Scotland, you may have missed out on an important part of your heritage. They consider older people as an asset and elders actively participate as family members. The country has even adopted a new program called “Reshaping Care for Older People” to help seniors enjoy full lives.

5. Japan

Japan is one of the kindest places on earth for seniors. It isn’t unusual for several generations to live in the same home. Seniors in Japan also live longer than in any other country. They are happier, have stronger bonds with their families, and with the community. Japanese seniors also enjoy healthier, more active lifestyles. Many people feel that the attitudes towards older family members contribute to these facts.

Why We Should Follow Their Example

Sometimes aging family members are treated with shame and embarrassment. Seniors often experience social isolation and suffer from loneliness and depression. Following the example of these, and other countries who respect their aging members benefits everyone in the family and community around them.

Wisdom comes with age, just as skill comes from practice. Respecting seniors means appreciating their experiences and what they have learned from them. By the time a young person learns what you know, they will be the same age as you!

One of the most beneficial things any of us can do is to open our hearts and our minds to our older family members and neighbors. When you take the time to learn about them, you may be surprised at the depth of knowledge they have to share.