In tribal societies, older adults are valued because they have useful skills. A scholar suggests ways we can appreciate seniors in the modern world.
Traditional hunter-gatherer societies treat their elderly better than modern society does for several reasons, says Jared Diamond, a “civilization scholar.” In tribal societies, elders continue to perform useful services such as producing food and babysitting grandchildren, which frees the adults to hunt and gather. In our modern culture, we have books and Google that serve as our sources for knowledge, but in tribal societies, elders serve as the repository for information about medicine, politics and food, among other topics. Their knowledge can mean the difference between survival and death.
In the modern world, older adults are devalued in a Puritan-based culture that places worth on self-reliance, work and youth. Diamond offers suggestions for how to improve seniors’ lives in a youth-based culture. Listen to his informative talk on “How Societies Can Grow Old Better.”