We Should Respect the Elderly (But We Do the Opposite)

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc

It is traditional, in mammalian species, for wisdom to be passed from generation to generation. The elderly have much to offer to the younger generation. In return for this knowledge, and in respect, the young care for their elders with care, compassion and consideration.

Sadly, it seems that this is a tradition now more commonly found among non-human species.

So, for example, the situation of underground water sources will be remembered by older elephants. This knowledge can save the herd during a drought. Younger elephants are so aware of the value of their elders, and so in awe of them, that when older elephants are slaughtered by poachers the young, orphaned elephants suffer from severe behavioural problems. They fail to find enough food for themselves, they don’t know what to do or where to go and they end up running amok, killing farmers and raiding their crops. They fight one another. They become yobs. Without access to their elders the young elephants are doomed to conflict.

Much the same thing happens with lions.

Young lions recognise that older lions can help with the complex cooperative hunting strategies which lions use to catch their prey. And so older lionesses, incapable of hunting and, became of missing teeth doomed to die if not cared for, will live out their old age supported by the younger females.

Chimpanzees care for their elderly too. Elderly chimpanzees are given food and groomed by the other members of their society. Older male chimpanzees aren’t subjected to the sort of aggression other males must expect, and their own rather feeble aggressive behaviour will be tolerated without retaliation by younger males.

Old age brings respect in much of the animal world. But not for humans.

In our modern society we pay respect only to youth, technology (whether useful or not), money (however acquired) and fame (whether deserved or not) but for decades the abuse of the elderly has been ignored or tolerated.

Today, doctors, nurses and hospitals are actively involved in killing the elderly with the support and approval of the State.

Adapted from `Coleman’s Laws’ by Vernon Coleman – available as a paperback and an eBook.

Copyright Vernon Coleman February 2022