In this chapter is being discussed the different roles that are carried out by elderly in different cultures and different periods of times. As a member of a society grows older, he or she usually changes roles or occupations. The acceptable roles for elders differ in each society. Some cultures utilize their elderly in many ways, while others just a few. There are many factors that distinguish the elderly in non industrialized societies from those living in the industrialized West.
Older people around the world enjoy a privileged position in society, generally they were considered the wise one, the one you would go to that has that realistic knowledge about things, but that privilege is been diminished and is no longer as popular in the modern world. In non industrialized societies the elderly remained functional within the group, useful and needed individuals.
In the other hand technological advances in the industrialized world has caused a general lowering of older peoples status and roles they play. In most cultures, especially Native Americans, the elderly are responsible for passing down oral traditions and teaching and instructing younger members. By telling stories, myths, legends, and singing songs, the elderly keep their heritage and history alive. Teaching younger members skills and subsistence knowledge is also very important for the existence of a culture.
But despite the strengths of elderly Native Americans and their families, conflicts like poverty and immigration are affecting this strengthen roles and considerable outside resources and support are required to get this population closer to the quality of life that many white, middle-class elderly have come to enjoy. Frequently, groups would very dependent on their “head of family” which in this case would be the elder folks, and this doesn’t mean that it will carry out negative connotations. Among the Oto and Iaoway this is quite rewarding, they hold on to traditional values and this keeps the family together.
It is not uncommon for three different generations to live near one another which helps carry on the traditions and family values from generation to generation. But many other Native Americans traditions seem to unfortunately be affected. One of the main causes of change in roles of Native Americans would be immigration, family traditions are been traded in for American ways of lives. It seems that in American tradition everyone but those who should love them tend to be aware of the value of the elderly today.
Nursing homes seem to be multiplying and there are less and less elderly among nuclear families. Elderly people are the backbone of modern society. They have shown us what can be done and how to do it. There is not enough respect for the people that have gone before us. Elderly people have been there and done just about everything we can think about. We owe a lot of our successes in life to those who have shown us the way. Elderly people are no different than the rest of us, they are people, just with couple of more years on them.