The Advent of the Nursing Home


Recently, Western society has shifted its focus from the old to the young. Today youth is a prize above any other. Maybe it’s the classic American idealism which keeps the infinite potential of youth in the limelight. Either way, the view of the elderly has significantly deteriorated within the last hundred years.

Historically old age has been valued for the wisdom that the elderly provide. The elder is considered the head of the family and is respected as the authority. Only in the last century was the first nursing home, called an almshouse, founded and since then the families have treated their elders with only a little dignity [1].

Old age hinders the American ideal of individualism: the elderly are forced to depend on others as their bodies begin to fade. Then the ever present fear of death also encourages the young to disregard the old in an attempt to forget about their own mortality. Whatever the reason today there are over 16,100 nursing homes which totals over 1.7 million beds and an occupancy rate of 86% [2].

But just as history has taught us, I believe that we should give our elderly more respect than it seems they have been getting. The age of technology makes it easy to assume that the minds of our grandparent’s generation are less than sharp, but the elderly have lived an entire life. They have had time to contemplate and learn from it and undoubtedly have invaluable knowledge to share with us, those who have lived only a short while.

[1] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/nursinghomes/timeline.html

[2] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/nursingh.htm

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