I believe that in the past three decades, the way society has treated he elderly has remained primarily the same. Some younger citizens have looked up to the elderly with respect, yet most continue to shun them and consider them useless and hopeless in a society such as ours. I think that the elderly population is continually losing respect from the new generations. Santiago, the elderly man in the novel The Old Man and the Sea, is respected by a young boy, Manolin, yet he is also looked down upon by many of the younger fishermen in the Cuban fishing village where he lives. This book is set in the late 1930’s and, I as I see it, shows that societies all around the world have had a decline in respect for the older people in their environment since the beginning of the nineteenth century.
An enormous number of issues have changed since Santiago’s time, allowing the elderly to have the ability to do more in their old age and live in areas specifically designed for their needs. However, there is still an enormous lack of respect for the older people in society, and it is becoming worse every day. Younger citizens of our country make fun of older people, call them names, and believe that they are incapable of doing most things that the younger ones are capable of doing. When we believe they can no longer support themselves, we place our elderly relatives into retirement homes and “old folks’ homes” as many call them. Sometimes they, themselves, do not wish to go to such a place, but we force them to, which many times is the wrong choice. Some younger people help the elderly, though, and try to support them, but few of these people can be found. It is a fact that when people get beyond a certain age, their memories begin depleting and they atrophy physically. However, as Santiago shows in the novel, older people have much knowledge about the world around them and enough strength to make it through hard situations if they are determined and have the will and courage to believe in a better tomorrow.
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In Santiago’s community, it is shown that their is still a natural respect for elders, as is seen in Manolin’s support of the old man. He was one of the dying breed that truly looked up to his elders and regarded their feelings and experiences with much respect. He greatly aided Santiago by giving him support and courage and helping him through every day chores. Their are still some people with such feelings in the world today, yet many have had their opinions swayed by others and begin to think badly of the elderly.
Their is also a lack of respect for Santiago and the elderly in the novel, which can be found in the actions of the young fisherman. Some laugh at him when he passed by, and some thought of him to be too old to be a fisherman. They believed he was not in good enough shape to catch a fish, yet it was only his bad luck that deterred him from doing such a thing. He was much better and more exact than most of the other fisherman in the village, yet they could not see past his age to view his accomplishments.
I think the false beliefs about the weakness of the elderly can be turned around only if society looks much harder at their abilities and their goals. We must begin to see that although they may not have great physical strength, they still have a mind that is capable of many things. Their are many jobs that they can hold in the workplace and many things they can do to help society of which we, the younger generation, are not aware. We must realize that they have gone through many experiences that we have not and that they hold a vast amount of knowledge about the world around them. There will come a time when one’s age does not determine the value of one’s life, but we can change that dream to reality only if we try.
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