2011 How Does Aging Affect Mental Health and the Onset of Senility from a Chinese Medical Perspective Final Paper, Anthropology of Chinese Medicine 98T, UCLA
It is an inevitable element of societies and cultures to evolve and innovate, improving technology and medicinal practices. Given the constant improvement of biotechnology, the increase in human lifespan has become an inevitable facet of our growing population. As a result, the number of senior citizens (over the age of 65) will continue to dramatically increase. In the United States, the proportion of elderly citizens has increased from 4% in 1900 to about 12% in 2000. This translates to approximately 3 million senior citizens present in 1900 and 35 million in 2000. Experts estimate that in the year 2020, that number will increase to over 50 million—approximately 17 percent of the population (Meyer 2001). There is an even more rapid growth exhibited in the elderly population in China. In 1950, the elderly population amounted to approximately 7.5%, which grew to 10.9% in 2005. It is projected that in the year 2050, China’s elderly population will increase to a staggering 31% amounting to over 400 million people (Heilig 2010). As the growth of the elderly population persists, accompanied by the increase in human lifespan, an increase in chronic health issues will emerge. The emergence of health issues in the elderly will subsequently cause the necessity for more refined medicinal procedures and improved technology, thus bringing us full circle. Before we can explore and compare the Western and Chinese treatments associated with geriatric illnesses, we must first understand how each culture perceives the aging process. Each culture has a unique perspective on aging that has helped shaped the way elderly are viewed and treated today. Some similarities are apparent, but many differences can be established due to the cultural disparities that arise in their historical backgrounds. By evaluating the views of each culture separately, we can expect to gain a better understanding of why the elderly are treated the way they are. Hopefully, through assessment of previous studies and anthologies of Traditional Chinese Medicinal (TCM) history, the basis behind the particular perspectives on aging and the theories of aging can be uncovered. With a better grasp on the process of formulating these theories, a considerable number of opportunities to comprehend the arrival to such theories should present themselves.
In Western culture, the notion of progressing into old age has developed a generally negative connotation (Purnell 1998). Looking and acting young has become a popular fad in American culture. Because there is a general fear of growing old in Western culture, ageism is exhibited and the elderly are often times discriminated against. Elderly are frequently seen a sick, senile, and generally useless. To their surrounding youth, older individuals are considered a burden and overly dependent (Cook 2003). With advancing medical technology to improve health and longevity, Western culture focused on reducing the symptoms of old age. However, the introduction of Botox, implants, and liposuction has enhanced the proposal that looking and acting young is positively viewed.
On the other hand, traditional Chinese cultural views toward the elderly are much removed from its Western counterpart. In fact, the Chinese place the elderly on a pedestal because of the idea that they have accumulated wisdom and knowledge over the years (Murray, 1998). Much of their moral system finds basis in the teachings of Confucius. In particular, Fairbank et al. (1959) stated that “the mixed love, fear and awe of the children for their father was strengthened by the great respect paid to age. An old man’s loss of vigour was more than offset by his growth in wisdom.” Respecting the elderly was part of the teachings of filial piety. They believed that it was necessary for the younger and...
References: 2010. Population by Age and Sex, 1950 - 2050; Proportion Elderly, Working Age, and Children. China Country Profile.
Purnell, Larry D. and Betty J. Paulanka,
1998 Transcultural Health Care: A Culturally Competent Approach
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