Environmental Force Essay
As of the past half century or so, Americans have been growing more and more concerned with nutrition and keeping up a healthy lifestyle. As a result, we are living to be older and older. Denise Scruggs (2012) claims that we are headed towards a “Silver Tsunami” which is a state of being where the older population outnumbers the younger population. I believe this is happening now, and I believe that we are striving to keep the elderly alive because we have an innate responsibility to take care of our elders, and because of a connection to the past we don’t want to lose.
In her lecture, Scruggs (2012) talks about all of the changes that we would have to make to make in order to accommodate for an aging population. Some of these changes include an increased risk of mental illness with an aging population. When you have more people getting older, there is more of a risk of them getting some form of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Vertigo. This would lead to a growing population of adults who are mentally unstable. Another change that would occur is in the types of businesses and services we would provide to an aging population with different needs and expectations.
With an aging population, people are going to need different services, such as healthcare or retirement advice. They will have the need for different businesses, such as the eye care business, taking care of a growing population with deteriorating eyes. Also, the realty business will change to accommodate all of the moving retirees. Businesses such as these, along with many other social programs, such as social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Pension programs will have to change to deal with growing financial strain. Another change that is likely to occur with an aging population is an increased presence of the elderly in the workforce.
As the average age of living increases, people must stay in their careers longer in order to accumulate enough wealth for their elongated lives. This will decrease the amount of jobs available to the younger generations. Finally, a change will come within our families. With a growing population, there will emerge, a “Sandwiched Generation” (Scruggs 2012). This is when you have a middle generation who, have to care not only for their children, but for their parents, and in some cases, grandparents, that will still be alive.
This will put an enormous strain on the American family, because they will have added pressure to produce for more people. As I was sitting there listening to this, it sounded terrible. We will have to completely change our way of life in order to accommodate this aging population that for some reason we are trying to keep alive, through healthy eating and exercise regiments. Why would we keep on trying to prolong the lives of the elderly if our society will have to change so much to accommodate them? My answer came from the writings of Jane Goodall (1990) and Aldo Leopold (1966).
Jane Goodall was a secretary who by chance took a job that led her to Africa and into the jungle to live with chimpanzees. Goodall studied chimpanzees because of their close relation to humans. It is because of this close relationship I began to understand why we feel obligated to care for the elderly. Goodall (1990, 197-198) talks about a mother chimp who was too tired from her journey to climb and get food. So, her daughter grabbed a bunch of food, and came down to the floor next to her mother, and shared a meal with her, understanding that her mother was too weak to fend for herself, but still needed nourishment. Without understanding of this sort there can be no empathy, no compassion. And, in both chimpanzees and humans, these are the qualities that lead to altruistic behavior and self sacrifice”(198). As humans, we are ingrained with a certain level of empathy for the sick, wounded, or weak. It is this empathy that drives us to keep the elderly alive. We see our loved ones grow old and weak, and we feel a responsibility to help them. Another reason I have for us wanting to keep the elderly alive, is that we want to maintain a connection to the past that is kept alive by the elderly.
Leopold (1966) talks about cutting down an old oak tree. As he is cutting down this tree, he compares it to going back in time, through the age rings on the oak tree. “ We sensed that these two piles of sawdust were something more than wood: that they were the integrated transect of a century; that our saw was biting its way, stroke by stroke, decade by decade, into the chronology of a lifetime, written in concentric annual rings around a good oak”(1966, 192-193).
Leopold goes through the whole tree, reminiscing about what the tree has seen and what it has been through during its hundred-year life. After he gets through the whole tree, he talks about some other plats and animals that have come and gone throughout history, and how we can learn so much from things in the past. At the end of his essay, he says “It is a kind providence that has withheld a sense of history from the thousands of species of plants and animals that have exterminated each other to build the present world” (1966, 203).
What Leopold is trying to say here, is that because we keep destroying our historical ecology, we are destroying history itself. I believe that the same goes with humans. I believe that we want to keep our elderly alive because they are our only first-hand link to the past. With the progression of technology, much of our cultural history is being lost. The only history we have left is the stories and experiences of our elders, which is why we feel a responsibility to keep them alive as long as possible.
1. Goodall, J. (2009). Through a window. Excerpted in D. Werner (Ed. ), Lynchburg College Symposium Readings (3rd ed. ) Volume IX: Science and human nature. (pp. 190-201). Philadelphia: XLibris. (Original work published in 1990). 2. Leopold, A. (2009). Sand county almanac. Excerpted in D. Freier (Ed. ), Lynchburg College Symposium Readings (3rd ed. ) Volume VIII: Shaping the environment. (pp. 190-203). Philadelphia: XLibris. (Original work published in 1966) 3. Scruggs, D, and Olsen, T. PhD. (2012 February 6) The Changing Face of Aging: How to Live to 100, Lecture at Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Va