In almost all cultures but the monetized culture we now live in, when people came to a certain age we called them elders. They were respected for their experience, the wisdom that often comes with age, and for the lifetime of service they gave to family, community, the economy and society. We now tend to call them old people, retired, pensioners, golden oldies or if we are politically correct, senior citizens. Our suburban communities have no place for them, mostly because they can no longer drive, so we segregate them into isolated housing we call retirement homes – or if upscale, retirement villages. When they become unwell, they are moved to nursing homes where they live among a concentration of ill people, some suffering senility, often with underpaid, overworked staff in conditions that are sad at best, and sometimes a depressing, miserable way to mark the ending years of ones life. Even the best of these places cut elders off from society and deprive the community of their assistance and the transmission of culture that traditionally went from grandparent to grandchild. It also promises to be unsustainable in the future when there will be too many old people and not enough young to pay for segregated retirement and expensive health care.
More on this subject including a lovely series of photographs