British society has a lot to learn from the “reverence and respect for older people in Asian culture,” Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
Speaking at the National Children and Adults Services Conference in Harrogate on 18th October 2013, Mr. Hunt highlighted the plight of lonely older people and the national shame of a forgotten million – those in care homes or isolated in their own homes with no one to talk to.
The Health Secretary called for older people to be treated with more reverence and drew attention to how older people in other cultures are treated.
Taking care of the old people, Mr. Hunt said, is not just a government or a local government solution. “There has to be a social solution too,” he said.
“My wife is Chinese and I am struck by the reverence and respect for older people in Asian culture. In China and Japan, it is quite normal for elderly parents to live with their children and their families. The Indian government has even announced recently that it plans to name and shame people who abandon their parents,” Mr. Hunt said.
He defended the care homes saying that there are “occasions where it’s right and necessary for older people” to go there, adding that “no family should feel condemned for taking that difficult decision.”
Mr. Hunt went on to say that “In those countries, when living alone is no longer possible, residential care is a last rather than a first option. And the social contract is stronger because as children see how their own grandparents are looked after, they develop higher expectations of how they too will be treated when they get old.”
He said that if the British society is to tackle the challenge of an ageing society, then it must learn from the Asian culture “and restore and reinvigorate the social contract between generations.”
Improving the way Britons take care of the old people “will only start with changes in the way we personally treat our own parents and grandparents,” Mr. Hunt said.