That's old and that's new.
Traditionally, nomadic tribes have abandoned their elders behind when moving to a new place.
Paraguay’s Aché Indians still elect young men to kill old people with an ax or a spear when they hold up the tribe. They may even bury them alive.
Elderly Eskimos traditionally were taken to the sea and set adrift, condemned to starve and freeze on a floating iceberg when they were unable to contribute.
More rarely, Alaskan Inuits nowadays practice senilicide (killing the elderly), infanticide (killing of children), and also invalidicide (killing of the handicaped or the sick).
Until the 1950s, newly widowed New Guinean women had to be strangled by their husband's brothers or one of their own sons. The widow would ask it herself if no one volunteered, or the family would be dishonored.
In some cultures such as the Chukchi of Siberia (see Rane Willerslev) as well as native Americans and Norse tribes of Scandinavia, elderlies request to die when they get sick. It's called Eutanasia in the Western world, The elderlies go on an impossible journey where they will not survive.
This is how some Americans may feel they have to do too when the medical bills accumulate or their elders are artificially sustained. Or they have Alzheimer!
This is how some people may feel when they send their parents to a nursing home. The young does not take care of the old anymore. There is a limit to what they can sacrifice for their parents. Also, parents tend to encourage kids to be independent, which amplifies the problems.
As Muslims, our parents are the first person we should take care of. "You mother, your mother, and then your father." Someone may have a longer life if they treat their parents right. Islam recognizes how much parents have to sacrifice for their kids. We cannot even say uff to our parents and uff is the slightest manifestation of contempt. Children make duas (supplications) for their parents when they are dead.
That's because parents have spent their resources, health, and efforts on the children. Parents have sacrificed their time, their meals, their hobbies to take care of their children.
The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told ‘Umar b. Al-Khaṭṭāb, “There will come to you a man from Yemen,” and he described him in detail. He said, “His name is Uways from the tribe of Qarn. When he comes to you, then ask him to make du‘ā’ for you.”
He told ‘Umar to ask this man he has never seen to make du‘ā’ for him. Why? Because he was good to his mother and whoever is good to their mothers Allah listens to their supplications.
Serving one's parents erases one's sins. That's because compassion is everything.
When people do not care anymore about what other people say, compassion is lost.
When someone's opinion does not matters anymore, we end compassion.
When the old people are shut in an establishment and no one hears their voices. When no one cares if they cry or miss people because they are not productive anymore, compassion is lost.
Let's have a good look at ourselves.
In America, "A "cult of youth" and emphasis on the virtues of independence, individualism and self-reliance also make life hard on older people." (Judy Lin)
What do we get from pushing old people away?
"While many cultures celebrate the aging process and venerate their elders, in Western cultures — where youth is fetishized and the elderly are commonly removed from the community and relegated to hospitals and nursing homes — aging can become a shameful experience. Physical signs of human aging tend to be regarded with distaste, and aging is often depicted in a negative light in popular culture, if it is even depicted at all." (Healthy Living)
People feel weird about aging. Why is that? We will all get there. Isn't it time to plan for our future?
In tribal societies in Africa elderlies are the libraries of the tribe. They tell stories of the past, even up to several centuries back. They know family lineages, religious rituals, songs like planting songs, lore and myths surrounding the tribe. They know their environment and how to survive. They pass it on.
It is time that our societies give a place of honor to their elderlies.
"A new "Elderly Rights Law" passed in China wags a finger at adult children, warning them to "never neglect or snub elderly people" and mandating that they visit their elderly parents often, regardless of how far away they live." (Karina Martinez-Carter)
Korean celebrate the 60th and 70th birthdays with large-scale family events.
Up to "The Week," in 2004 in France, a law was passed to force the citizens to care for their parents. This followed two dramatic events: a statistic that revealed the high number of suicide among elderlies, and a heat wave that killed thousands of people, hitting the elderlies especially. Some were only discovered several weeks later.
Well, maybe now elderlies just have to go to Ikaria, a Greek island with hundreds of elderlies who live to a ripe old age. The shankrila of old age.
Or we need more compassion.
One thing you can do: visit nursery homes. Write old people stories and give it to them as a gift to share with their loved ones.
Jared Diamond. The World Until Yesterday.