Research Question: How does the way we treat our elders reflect our policy on Social Security and Medicare?
So much of our policy is based on a subjective view of what we see as ethical. Living in a very individualistic society, we tend to forget our elders and become self-consumed with our own lives and sometimes becoming even unaware of the plights of our own family. Though this is not exclusive to the elderly, and is in fact inclusive to all members of our family, it most directly affects our elders because they often cannot stand up for themselves. Too often are the elderly shoved into retirement homes and are left forgotten, while also having every aspect of their life directed by either assisted living staff or their own family. In our society, because we are so consumed with ourselves, we often see these people as a burden, and are not worth spending so much money on. Many of these elderly live off of the money they get from Social Security and Medicare, and to take that away would be a devastating blow to their wallets and their livelihood. While it is true that the government has to scale back on spending from time to time, they always seem to cut back on the wrong things that could directly affect people’s lives.
I began to be passionate about this subject when I first started to volunteer as an elderly woman’s house in my local community. It started off as just swinging by and helping her with some household chores such as cleaning the house, feeding her two dogs, watering plants and so on. In addition to that, I also began to read to her books of her picking and she often picked books that reminded her of her past. We didn’t get far in any of the books because she only wanted to hear some of her favorite passages, especially from the book “Paradise of the Blind” by Duong Thu Huong. She told me how it reminded her of her life in Vietnam when she was younger and each reading secession turned into a story time for me. Each time, I did less reading and more listening as she would go on for a good amount of time talking about her experiences when she was younger.
She always had some sort of lesson to teach me through telling me stories, something that I suspected of a high context individual. I knew this because much of my family is the way. However, she would not just tell me stories just to tell me stories, she expected a discussion and wanted to hear what I thought about such events. So I started to come back to her with some current events to exchange with her for her historical ones. She greatly appreciated this and as we continued, we began to integrate our experiences to get a much larger picture. I never would have thought that this is the kind of experience I would gain from volunteering at her house, because after all, I only went over there to help her out, instead, I learned a whole new perspective. It is because of her that I began looking into the way our society treats our elders and were disappointed with my discovery. Not only did I find the lack of empathy for our elders but I found that it greatly affected policy in today’s world. I decided to delve a little deeper into the issue to see what I would find out.
Beginning on August 14th 1935, the original social security act was signed into law, effectively giving people the opportunity to get back onto their feet during the Great Depression and would only continue to expand its programs (Social Security: A Program and Policy History). Today, Social Security and Medicare are threatened by those who wish to impose upon us a new fiscal bill that would cut many of those programs or lessen their effect and inadvertently work towards the demise of our elderly. However there are solutions, and two of them are offered by our two major parties! The Republican Party seeks to reform Medicare so that senior citizens may have the same healthcare plan as Congress, as well as broadening options for them (Republican Views on Health Care). The Democrat Party wishes to preserve, maintain, and strengthening the current Medicare system and specifically wants to reform only Part D of Medicare, which entails better drug prescription coverage (Democratic View on Health Care). This is all well and good, but nothing is being done when it comes to the financial assistance that our elders require. However, there is also something else that are elderly are craving, and that is family and community.
Our elders are in great need of the help we give them, whether that is through financial aid or simply just being there for them. I cannot think of a single time when someone does not want to see their family more often. There are many things we could do to help our elders, like visiting them more often, reading to them, doing something that they enjoy, help them around the house or even get them involved in community events. They do not have to part of your family either! If there is an elder that you know, that maybe lives down the street from you, then great! That is a fantastic opportunity to get involved into the community yourself and to give some warm hospitality to the elderly in our community. The problem lies in motivation to do so. We are an extremely individualistic society and are in fact the most individualistic society in the world! We often forget that there are others who depend on us to be there for them and to care for them. Now, we all know that we love our parents, but sometimes we get so sucked up into our own lives. The problem is that we need to create an atmosphere that leads us to focus on thinking about others before ourselves and not after we are done with what we need to do. There are several other cultures that could easily be perceived as being better in this aspect then we are, and they are most certainly worth looking into.
One of those cultures that are better at putting others before ourselves are the cultures of the Far East. Places such as Japan, China, Korea or Vietnam, are great examples of cultures that have that “others before myself” mentality. This largely has a lot to do with the collectivist tendencies in Asian cultures, as well as the intense reverence for the elderly. Being half Asian myself, it is quite easy for me to see the comparisons between our individualistic western culture verses the collectivist eastern culture that is highlighted by Asian societies. I would often see my mother tending to every need of her father and mother, calling them every day, sometimes multiple times a day. She would do the same for her Grand Parents and for the older generation in our family. This absolute reverence and deep respect for the elderly awed me, especially when I compare it to my western side of the family of talking to each other every once in a while and seeing each other only a few times over vast periods of times. This isn’t to say that my western side of the family does not care about each other, we do, but the culture that drives the way we act, causes an almost spiritual depravity when it comes to connecting to our aged loved ones.
How to Get Involved:
The solution is simple, we must continue to ask ourselves “How would we like to be treated when we are old?” because it is there that we will understand the problems in our way of thinking and make it easier to decide upon policy such as what to do about Medicare and Social Security? Now I am not saying we should all forgo our individualistic culture and be like the collectivists of the Far East, but we can at least be compassionate individuals can’t we? The real root of the problem of this whole Social Security and Medicare problem is not really about money, it is the motive and intention behind it. I have heard far too often that we should just stop funding aid to our elderly because they are not useful to society anymore, but they should be reminded that many of the most powerful people in the world are elderly and are the ones making great changes in society. In addition to that, the past generations fought in wars and led civil rights movements for our freedom, they went through many experiences to reflect to us and have a plethora of knowledge to bestow upon us. I don’t know about you but it looks like our elders did us a lot of favors and still have a lot to offer, therefore they deserve the best. I am not saying we can’t make financial cuts and I know for a fact that our elders know how to tighten their belt more than anyone else, but the issue is that we are not respecting or caring for our elders in the way that they need to be cared for. They need compassion from their loved ones and the community, not material compensation. I firmly believe that if we change the way we fundamentally think, we will find newer and brighter solutions to issues regarding Social Security and Medicare.
If you are interested in making a difference in the lives for our elders in your local community, I would highly recommend volunteering at a retirement home and spend as much time there as possible to keep them company! You could also do what I did and just ask if any one of the elders living in your neighborhood, nearby or even a family friend, would like some help or assistance in any way that you would like to be there for them and be there to help. You can also do simple things like being very respectful to our elders, and I know this sounds cheesy but doing things like helping them cross the street, helping them with bringing in their groceries, or even offering to get their mail or wash their car are simple things you can do to help them up. Just remember that when you see one of our elders taking a while to walk up some stairs, that will be us some day and I am sure we will very grateful and gracious to have some youngster giving us the respect that we deserve. On a matter that goes slightly beyond the local community is doing things that will help our elders who do not have the fortune to having loving and compassionate citizens nearby. Things like signing the petition to stop cruelty and abuse in care homes. At the bottom of the description, it highlights really well the entirety of the statement that I want to make. It says “At some time in our life, most of us will have grandparents or parents in Care Homes and these places should be like first class hotels, not like dungeons!”, I think that really sums up what I am trying to say and it is certainly a worthy cause to sign a petition for in the very least!
Here is the link for care2 petition:
How to Get Informed
- Article Title: Democratic View on Health Care
Date Accessed: March 10, 2015
- Website Title: Economic Policy Institute
Article Title: Financial Security of Elderly Americans at Risk: Proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare could make a majority of seniors ‘economically vulnerable’
Date Accessed: March 12, 2015
- Website Title: Forbes
Publisher: Forbes Magazine
Date Accessed: March 11, 2015
- Website Title: Petition: Stop cruelty and neglect of elderly people in CareHomes!
Article Title: Petition: Stop neglect of elderly people in Care Homes!
Date Accessed: March 12, 2015
- Article Title: Republican Views on Health Care
Date Accessed: March 10, 2015
- Website Title: Social Security: A Program and Policy History
Article Title: Social Security: A Program and Policy History
Date Accessed: March 10, 2015