wake-up call to society

I saw some pictures that touched me deep down.
Made me hurt and feel sorry for those who don’t know what it feels like to be unconditionally loved by their parents.
It’s a sobering reminder that there is good out there.

A 97 year old Chinese mother feeding and taking care of her 60 year old paralyzed son every day for over 19 years (nothing like mother love, right?).

And the picture I want to have a larger outlook on:

Here is a story from Taiwan about this picture (translated by Google).
It’s from 2012, and the guy is a 62 year old retired intelligence/detective-type from Taiwan. He took his mom to the hospital due to her braking a leg and was not comfortable in a wheelchair. The image went viral in Taiwan and a few days after, she passed away.

Yes, okay. I agree. The picture was not taken with that man’s permission and we should treat it as a private moment that doesn’t need to be turned into a spectacle of the internet. Anyhow, I do think it’s a view worth having at least for some seconds to think about some few things.

This man not only did he take care of his mother, but also had to go to court against his brother (who also wanted to take care of her):
Ting’s [guy in picture] devotion was challenged by a legal battle with his brother four years ago. Both sons wanted to take care of their mother, but disagreed about which methods to use — Chinese or western medicine. Ting Tsu-chi was granted the right to take care of his mother.

This last picture is both sad and beautiful at the same time. She carried him now he carries her.
This must be a full time job for Ting. Such a courageous act of love and selflessness.
It has to be very emotionally and physically exhausting. I truly hope I have the courage to care for my mother or father like that should they ever need it.

I guess that’s the basic reason why we hope our parents don’t grow old so they won’t need such care. The basic reason why we don’t want to grow old either. Fear of becoming a burden, among other reasons. Caring for someone else’s life is a terrifying amount of responsibility.

I am aware of there being thousands, maybe millions of stories like this one. Along human history there has been a lot of love, we humans are capable of loving in huge amounts. And that’s probably the best reason why we shouldn’t lose faith in ourselves — in humanity.

Regarding the picture again. Some consider it to be not just dedicated, but also is expected.
I am also of the opinion it is expected, or at least it should be.
The younger generation should take care of the older generation as they age. I’m not diminishing his devotion though.

This is something Western culture is sadly losing with our new way of living and thinking. Something we should recover and something that in general terms is vivid in Asian cultures. It’s a huge hole in our culture and we could learn from them.
The throw-them-in-a-home mentality here in the West is shameful.
I really admire this about Asian cultures. And I for one have a real problem about the way we treat our elderly.
Now, I do know some children in both cultures take care of their parents, and also some children in both cultures neglect their parents.

Assuming after reading this last paragragh that Asians are better than westerners is somewhat an infant thing to do and it is certainly not what I meant. You might take this as a blanket statement or assumption, and blanket statements can frequently be insulting. So don’t take it that way — You might be a westerner born and raised and were not taught to ignore your elders, just as I.

Within Asian cultures, there are many aspects worthy of being ashamed of, as there are in Western cultures. As an example, a subset of Asians (Indians and Chinese) commit infanticide on a regular basis. Such is something I condemn with all my being.
[Infanticide abortion responsible for 60 million girls missing in Asia]
[Female infanticide in India and China (source 1 and source 2)]
Asians are seriously lacking in taking care of their children, and that’s something they should also have a look at.
Nevertheless, by and large, they have a wonderful, rich history of taking care of their parents and ancestors.

It is good in most cases to keep a family member at home, in others, it isn’t. Some diseases do need professional care though, such as Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s care needs to be done by professionals because after a point, it’s simply very difficult to continue caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, as it requires 24/7 surveillance and care.

So, why are Asians so good with their elders? The concept is called filial piety. In Confucian philosophy, filial piety (Chinese: 孝, xiào) is a virtue of respect for one’s parents and ancestors.

In fact, this isn’t just expected — in some places it’s legally required.
As of 2011, 29 states in the USA have such laws on the books, and a few states require the potential support of grandparents or even siblings.

Chinese student Guo Shijun (right) prepares a meal for his father in his dorm while his father (left), who is paralysed from the waist down, rests in the specially installed bed
Guo Shijun takes his paralysed dad to his university and rings up a special bed so he can stay the full term.

Here are some of the major differences between Asian and Western culture by /u/danstoncul that add more insights and context into filial piety. These are just generic differences and there are, of course, exceptions:

  • Asians are not expected to move out after 18. Many Asians are staying with their parents even in their 30s. They can even get married and still stay with their parents. The wife normally has to move in to the husband’s side though.
  • Most Asians send money home to their retired parents. Basically, it is like a repayment system. While the parents are still working, they will pay for most of the expenses for the children who are not working e.g. university fees. When the parents don’t get any more income, the children will work and pay for the expenses of their parents.
  • Asian parents don’t buy property investment so they can sell it off for their own retirement. Asians tend to buy for their next generation. Asians don’t need to depend on selling off property/share investment for retirement because their kids are their investment. That’s why Asians are expected to work towards “high-paying jobs” e.g. doctors/lawyers/dentist/engineers.
  • Most Asians don’t send their parents to nursing homes/retirement village. If the parents are unable to take care of themselves, they will just move in with their child & spouse.

All the same, there’s a variable that disturbs all these ideas. I’m not backing myself up with numbers, so, what if Asians don’t send their parents off to nursing homes not because they are noble, but because they don’t have homes or adequate medical facilities to take them to? This could be part of the issue. How many elders are neglected – kept alive, but abused?

Western countries have spurred a well-developed industry of retirement villages and assisted living centers, but they remain few and far between in Asia, where multiple generations traditionally live under one roof and live-in domestic helpers are widely affordable.


America's Growing Elderly Population

In the US, the 2010 Census recorded the greatest number and proportion of people age 65 and older in all of decennial census history: 40.3 million, or 13% of the total population. This “Boomer Generation” effect will continue for decades.

Unfortunately, we simply do not know for certain how many people are suffering from elder abuse and neglect. But according to the American Center on Elder Abuse, the percentage of elderly population abused in 2010 in the US was 9,5%
(Research Date: June 18th 2013)

According to a report published by dailymail.com, Thousands of elderly people are being abused and neglected in their homes by the very staff meant to care for them. In some cases the treatment is so appalling that frail and vulnerable pensioners have been left wanting to die.

European Union.
In the EU elder abuse has become a growing concern over the last few years too as European countries face irreversibly transformed age pyramids.
While the number of people 65+ in 2010 represented more than 17% of the total population, according to the latest projections, the number of people over the age of 65 will double and the number of people over the age of 80 will triple by 2060.

According to the ABUEL (Abuse and health among elderly in Europe) study, made in Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, surveys uncovered a prevalence of 19.4% for mental abuse, 2.7% for physical abuse, 0.7% for sexual abuse, 3.8% for financial abuse and 0.7% for injury.

A study conducted in Sweden showed that 77% of the interviewed
GPs (n=65) encountered during a twelve-month period 192 risk
situations of either physical, psychological and financial abuse, or neglect.

Persons causing concern as reported in Ireland:elder abuse in EU



In Japan, elder abuse came to light when the long-term care insurance scheme was implemented in 2000. Anme’s survey delivered a higher ratio of emotional/psychological abuse than previous studies.
However, Kasuga presents a different pattern in her paper: The most frequent types of mistreatment were neglect, followed by physical abuse. Furthermore, the prevalence rate of women being abused was higher than for men and abuse proportionally increased in older age.
[Anme, T. A study of elder abuse and risk factors in Japanese families: Focused on the social affiliation model. Geriatrics and Gerontology International, 2004, 4:S262-63]

Republic of Korea.
The socioeconomic development process in the Republic of Korea
that has been experienced since WWII has had an impact on its
society, including the family structure which changed from an extended to a nuclear one. The burden of caring for parents rests traditionally with the eldest son and his wife.
Although a pension system has been introduced in the 1980s, the majority of older persons have no or very little independent income. This issue is highly challenging for a society that is rapidly ageing. Also the social and welfare systems are not yet well established. As a result, older people have to rely on their children for all kinds of support.
Another consequence of the modernization of the country is the weakening of filial piety. Older persons are often left alone at home since the share of women working outside their homes has increased. Nevertheless, since filial piety is still explicitly dominant in Korea and physical harm to old people is a taboo, the rates of reported physical abuse are very low.

In Oh et al.’s Korean study between 1.9% and 4.2% (n=15230) of the participants experienced abuse of one type or the other.
[Han, D. A study of the approaching elder abuse in Korea. Geriatrics
and Gerontology International, 2004, 4:S264-65]
[Oh, J. et al. A study of elder abuse in Korea. International Journal
of Nursing Studies, 2006, 43(2):203-14]

A study conducted in Singapore found during a 44 months
period seventeen elder abuse cases (n=62826) in an emergency unit,
with a physical abuse rate of 0.03%.
[Cham, G, Seow, E. The pattern of elderly abuse presenting to
an emergency department. Singapore Medical Journal, 2000]

China, Hong Kong Special Administration Region revealed that
21.4% (n=76) of the older people’s sample had experienced at least
one kind of abuse.
In China, older people are traditionally not only highly esteemed,
but the infliction of physical harm upon them was deemed as a crime
that could be punished with the death penalty, as old age has been
considered as one of the five blessings: “Having an elderly person in the family is like having a treasure”.
[Lee, YJ, Xiao, ZY. Children’s support for elderly parents in urban
and rural China: Results from a national survey. Journal of Cross-
Cultural Gerontology, 1998, 13:39-62.]

Moreover, social changes brought by industrialization and urbanization have posed great challenges to traditional Chinese values. Chan and Lee mention that “Hong Kong families are now at the crossroad of modernism and traditionalism”.
One of the consequences is that younger generations are less devoted to traditional Confucian principles and seem to prefer individual development rather than fulfilling culturally prescribed family obligations.
[Chan, H, Lee, R. Hong Kong families: At the crossroads of
modernism and traditionalism. Journal of Comparative Family
Studies, 1995, 26:83-99.]

According to a survey made by HelpAge, 6748 people in 20 different cities answered it and these are the results:

elder abuse in india

In India, older people have been traditionally venerated and
assured of their authority in society. They are responsible for keeping the family intact and are considered a main source of guidance, support and love. Thus, ageing in India is not seen as a frightening prospect.
[Segal, U. Family violence: a focus on India. Aggression and Violent
Behavior, 1999, 4(2):213-31.]

To finish this post — Euthanasia and abortion I simply don’t agree with. I consider the mere thinking and talking about how one should let the elder or the to-be baby die an abominable and loathsome action.
When we start making decisions on who lives and who dies based on how convenient the results would be to the living, we’re taking our species down to the darkest and lowest path: our own distruction.

Ultimately, the underlying point of this post is that taking care of the elderly in our society should be a universally held value.


One comment

  1. Constantino De Zabala · May 22, 2014

    Creo que está muy bien logrado y documentado el artículo. Me parece que lo lógico es cuidar a nuestros mayores y también a cualquier familiar. Nosotros, los cristianos tenemos aun un mayor deber. Es decir, cuidar a nuestro prójimo, es decir a cualquiera que nos necesite. De ahí han salido personas como la Beata Teresa de Calcuta.. Recordar la Parábola del Buen Samaritano ( Lc 10,25- )… Te felicito por esta serie de artículos y profundas reflexiones…Sigue asi….Tancho


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