D is for Disposable Culture
For the past several months, I have been working in various nursing homes in my area. As I walk through the facilities and talk to the patients during our therapy sessions, I realize just how much society has failed the aging generation. When individuals become too old to take care of themselves, they are sent to homes in which they are surrounded by other sick peers and must rely on staff who simply do not have enough hours in the day to give them the care to allow them to live out the rest of their days in comfort, let alone satisfaction or pleasure.
I see this problem as a result of the “disposable culture” in which many Western societies function. We buy goods for a specific use, and once that good is no longer fully functional, the good is thrown away and an equal or better replacement is bought. With new upgrades constantly being made, it has become part of our culture and thinking that if an item is faulty in some way, it is no longer worth keeping because there are better replacements available for use.
When one is accustomed this kind of thinking for objects, it is not far-fetched to apply this to fellow humans as well. We live in the world of networking, which involves meeting people for the sole purpose of the use that person may serve in our future careers. When people are no longer of use to us, often we either break off the relationship or allow it to naturally dissolve.
When individuals reach a certain age in which they cannot fully function or provide a use, they become reliant on those with whom they live. Because most Western individuals live with this natural inclination to throw away that which is no longer useful, it becomes easier for younger individuals to be resistant to continuing to take care of an elderly relative, thus resulting in many elderly individuals being sent to an assisted living facility. The elderly are essentially “thrown out” with all of the other lower-functioning items.
In order to combat this problem, individuals must recognize this natural inclination. Once we realize the concept we have in our culture of disposing the old to make way for the new, we then may attempt to explore new ways of dealing with the lack of care for the aging population. It will take education and a shift in the rhetoric used when talking about fellow humans. Rather than see the elderly as lower-functioning people, we should change our perspective and look at that generation as one who raised us when we were not yet fully functional ourselves, thus providing a service that we now owe back. By shifting our perspectives and viewing the elderly as a debt to be paid rather than an item to be thrown away, we will be more inclined to put in the energy, effort, and money to provide that generation with proper care.