The best classroom is at the feet of the elderly

By Younas Chaudhary

In most south Asian cultures, older parents live respectfully and willingly with their children.  Adult children and grandchildren take care of their elders at their homes as part of daily life. For example, when an elder comes into a room, people stand up and greet them and they sit only after their elder is seated. The elders take the first bite and the younger  follow them at dinner tables. Younger family members will ask for and seek elders’ advice on topics ranging from arranging marriages of their children and naming their newborn children. The elder folks’ word was final in settling disputes within families.

Younas Chaudhary pictured with his grandmother
in 1980 while visiting Pakistan.

Respecting elders was a way of life for me growing up in Pakistan. My parents taught me with their own actions to respect elders and, as I became older, this became part of my daily interactions. The elders taught me wisdom as I took on challenges in life. They gave common sense advice, told me to take bold decisions, and when I was scared, they shared their lived experiences with me. “Son, I have been through that, and I can tell you confidently that this is the way to approach this problem,” was a common refrain I heard.We deeply cared for elders and overcame life’s day to day problems with their practical advice.

In a typical family, a child took care of his/her parents.  Elderly parents stayed with him/her and he/she looked after all their day-to-day needs and wellbeing until their death. Today, the joint family system in South Asia is moving rapidly towards a nuclear family. Yet, there are so many lucky parents who are being looked after by their own children and grandchildren in their own homes.

In our own family, my father fully took care of my grandmother at our home until she died at age 104. She was widowed in her late sixties and my dad took care of all her needs lovingly for almost five decades! So, I believe my family is reaping the blessings of my parent’s care, love, and sacrifices. I do not think children of our current generation would do that which I feel is a huge loss to their generation.

My grandmother lived with us for her entire older life. I saw through my own experience that my grandmother was a priority at our home. My father made sure that he and his children performed most of her day-to-day routine. For example, one of my daily jobs was to prepare fresh Hookah for my grandmother at least twice a day.

Once I arrived in the West, I saw the stark contrast between cultures, especially in the realm of respect for elders and women. I rarely found men getting up in trains to offer seats for women even if they were pregnant. I rarely saw youngsters get up to give seats to older folks. All I have seen is the proliferation of assisted living homes and old age homes in Canada and the USA over the last few decades. Children rarely visit their parents at their homes or do anything for their older parents. This is largely because of rugged individualism, a characteristic of Western cultures.

I personally believe that people who take care of their parents with a clear and selfless heart irrespective of their financial situation will find peace, health, and happiness in their lives. This is irrespective of them belonging to Eastern or Western cultures.

I believe it is a blessing to see a daily sight of different generations in a family live together, sit together, and eat together at the same table in the same home. That’s a family.

No one can stop us from aging. You, me, and everyone around us ages with  the passage of time. As we get older and frail, having a loved one within your family around you all the time to look after and take care of you is an essential and important part of living. Blessings.


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.

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