Her thesis is that until we respect our elders, the pernicious cruelty towards old people will continue.
While I agree with her arguments I would like to make two observations.
The first is that these attitudes are far more prevalent in the indigenous, longer established population and much less in the families from Africa and Asia where the wisdom of age is much more valued and respected.
People from these continents are used to seeing their elders work hard, without the protection of a welfare state and pension schemes. In these cultures, a person is brought up and protected by the extended family, and as they get older they then look after those who’ve looked after them.
There’s self interest and community interest at heart here, and it works well. Where this family/community protection is replaced by the state or other institutions, the appreciation of the human relationship is rapidly diluted.
When transplanted into this country, such respect for older people remains for one or two generations. I know several African families very well, and respect for elders is a value that is instilled into the children. Any ageist remark or attitude is sometimes literally slapped down.
The second point is that we should value old people not just because they brought us up, but because they have so much to teach us. Again this is where communities from less developed countries can illuminate our failings.
Their idea of education was less through formal schooling and more from the passing down of wisdom, ideas, values and experience from generation to generation. The collective learning of old people was critical to the success or failure of a family, village or tribe.
In our more developed culture, old people may not play such an educational role, but their memories, life stories, achievements, attitudes make up micro social and family histories.
We should understand their worth and do all we can to keep them, because once lost they are lost forever.
This is why the Lifebox is such a useful service. It’s an online secure area designed to enable personal histories to be uploaded and stored, then to be accessed by chosen younger family members.
It’s probable that many older people who will want a Lifebox will need the help of younger family members to populate it, and in doing so, the bonding between young and old will increase the mutual intergenerational respect.
This in turn will reduce our tendency, pointed out by Geraldine Bedell, to dismiss the value of our older family members.