Ain’t nobody know Asia better than Wallace, Durand and Gibson.

In this episode of the Line, they discuss the challenges of ageing in an increasingly uncertain world.

Get your subaltern take on the issues of the day, while you do your ironing or whatever.

 

 

Here’s an excerpt:

Durand:

Today we’re going to talk about ageing in Asia. None of us is getting any younger, none of our parents is getting younger. But in our youth-obsessed modern society, how do we age with dignity? How do we fulfil our filial duty to our parents? As Asians we are brought up with this expectation that we will look after our parents in their old age. Filial piety is a fundamental defining value of what it means to be Asian. You talk about Asian values, you always think of filial piety. And we all recognize the sacrifices our parents have made for us. In many instances, these are financial. Parents have dipped into their nest eggs to fund our education, sometimes they even help out with down payments on houses, and in return, at least in the past, the expectation was that we take care of our parents in their old age. But look at our lives: our lives are so nomadic, our careers are so global. Do any of you live in the same country as your parents?

Gibson: 

No. It’s becoming more and more the norm to at least have part of your life overseas, either through education or work.

Durand: 

So the big question for many of us is are we going to move back home to care for our parents as they get older? The pros are there’s less interruption to our parents’ lives. Also, our own children learn the value of filial piety from our actions, hopefully so they don’t kick us out when it’s our turn (laughter).

. . .

Durand:

We looked at how other cultures take care of their elderly, such as the ancient Inuit practice of sending them out on ice floes.

Wallace: 

There are a whole bunch of cultures out there that practice, what is it called, senicide. But if you think about the kind of life they had, especially living in such harsh conditions like the Arctic, you’re going off hunting seals, you have to do that or you’ll all die. Everybody has to pitch in. If you get to that point in your life where you can’t be useful to your community, I’m not supporting it, but I can see why. If I have to carry this invalid  or someone not capable of taking care of themselves, I might die, and I can’t take care of my kids, and then they might die. So it’s just a whole domino effect.

. . .

Wallace: 

There’s an old people’s home in Seattle, where they were running a pre-school as well, so the kids would come in every day. The benefits to the elderly were amazing.

Durand: 

When the old live among the young, they’re still engaging with the living.

Wallace: 

In some places in Thailand, they still do it. Because the adults in their twenties/ thirties/forties are able-bodied, they go out and work and leave their kids with their parents. I’m talking about the provinces. The young go out to work and send money home. I’m not saying it always turns out well, because essentially the parents are never around, but the grandparents end up taking care of the kids.

Gibson: 

In Singapore, around 6 pm everyday, you can see plenty of mainland Chinese children whose parents are still working and the people who are watching over them in the playground are the grandparents. As a grandparent your life has a second meaning where you have to take care of your grandkids while your children are out at work.

Durand : 

Don’t you think that works better when people have kids younger?

Wallace: 

Yeah, so you’re still very active and taking care of young child is not a huge burden as when you’re in your late 60s or 70s.

. . .

Durand:

We talk so much about how it takes a village to raise children, but what about taking care of the elderly? Governments need to be making policies to support caregivers to the elderly too. And I think Singapore is one of the better examples of this, am I right Gibson?

Gibson:

In Singapore we have the Maintenance of Parents Act. It’s a law that provides Singapore residents aged sixty years and above who can’t subsist on their own grounds to claim maintenance from their children. The kids can also dispute the ruling if they feel that they were abandoned or neglected as children. It cuts both ways. But how do you prove that?

When this law first came about there was a lot of debate about whether this was an Asian thing to do because it essentially replaces a moral obligation with a legal duty.

If we think about the context, however, in a Confucian society, the aspiration is the ancestral home. Three generations under one roof, the men in the family go out to work, not overseas, and the women in the family, the daughters-in-law, care for the children and elderly. You eat together around a big table every night, you have an altar in the home where you do ancestor worship, you are faithful to your family first and then to the wider community and nation. I’m sure none of us lives under these circumstances any longer.

Wallace:

Wait, the house I grew up in, was kind of the modern equivalent of that. My grandfather, who was the patriarch of the family—he built the business. He built the building himself. It was a multi family building and each family was living on their own floor. On our floor, I was living with my step-grandmother, and the second floor was my grandfather’s and on the fourth floor was one uncle and his family, and on the fifth floor there was another uncle and so on. And then the business was on the ground floor. So you’re right there and you can take care of each other and stuff.

Gibson:

So how did you feel about that?

Wallace:

Well, I had a lot of cousins to play with. We ruled the place. But that was the last generation to live like that.

. . .

Produced by Maggie Bigelow Tada.