The Persian culture is just as obsessed with youth and beauty, and just as frightened of getting old and death as most other cultures. Some types of cosmetic surgery have actually become routine and the norm here. Apparently we are number one in the world in terms of the rate of nose jobs.
Still, this doesn’t mean the elderly are marginalized, disregarded, or disrespected; the elderly are actually greatly respected in my culture. Until my granddad was alive, whenever we went to visit him we had to sit cross legged on the ground (traditionally we didn’t have sofas and we would sit on the carpet and little mats and blankets and big hard cushions to rest our back and that’s what my grandparents’ house was like), we weren’t allowed to stretch our legs in front of him because he thought it very very rude for us to be sitting like that in front people older than us. That was just an example to show that respect may mean different things in different cultures, even from one city to the other in Iran. The elderly’s views on what the family members are doing or should be doing are important and it’s rude to disregard them, even when they haven’t gained as much wisdom as they should have during their years of life. This, in many cases, borders on interference rather than expressing of views. And sometimes this isn’t just limited to the elderly of the family, but anyone older than you will do just fine. Even though the culture is changing, you can still see many families in which the oldest member is the centre of the family and everyone listens to what they have to say. So getting old in Iran mostly brings with it a lot of power. I’m not saying that everyone obeys these cultural rules, I’m just one example of the many young people who, in most cases, listen very carefully to what they are told and then do the exact opposite.
So, we usually have big connected families and everyone cares and looks out for others, and especially the youngest and the oldest members, and the relationships are friendly and loving, but in cases that they aren’t it’s very difficult to get away from them.
In Iran sending the elderly to a nursing home is usually frowned upon, even when it’s to high quality private homes (what I’ve seen of government nursing homes has been terrible) that have the equipment to care for them better than in their own homes. It’s considered rude and disrespectful and as though you were tossing them aside, you should be caring for your parents as they did for you as a child. It’s your responsibility to take care of your parents in their need. My grandmother is no longer able to take care of herself but still lives in her own home with a nurse to look after her. We all have certain days to visit her so that each day someone will check up on everything and my aunt calls every day to check she has had all her medicine and to know what she will be having for lunch and dinner. On holidays we take turns looking after her so her nurse can visit her own family.
I think it’s important to listen to what other people have to say, especially when they have lived longer than you and gained more experience than you, and be open to other people’s views and ideas. But, it’s also important to know that you are the only person who knows what’s best for you and your life and should be the only one making decisions for it. I also like my culture’s view on taking care of parents and making life easy for them when they become old. I think it is our responsibility because they have given us life and because of all they have done for us. I will treat them as they have treated me and as I will like to be treated in the future.