Remedy for injustice

Until a few decades ago the traditional structure of Western society was based on a rule of reciprocity: as adults they gave assistance to our parents, and once they themselves became older they would receive care from their children.

Remedy for Injustice

by Luigino Bruni

published in Citta Nuova N.15  on 10/08/2011   

AnzianiThere is an overwhelming mass of great injustice toward the elderly. Until a few decades ago the traditional structure of Western society was based on a rule of reciprocity: as adults they gave assistance to our parents, and once they themselves became older they would receive care from their children (who in turn had received care from their parents during their childhood and youth). And the balance between "giving" and "receiving" care broke even. All this then was a political and social representation in the pension system, where the pension received by an elderly was not his savings as a young man, but a sort of return and appreciation of the young people towards them.

Today we are experiencing an unprecedented fact: there is a generation that will end its life with a strong care "credit", since it took care of its parents, but does not receive and will not receive care from their children, or in any case will receive much less on average, nor can it hope to receive from the state, since the state welfare that we are building is a perfect picture of this new culture. It is hoped that in a few decades societies will find a new social deal and a new equilibrium, because today we are witnessing inertly a generation who will die alone, who has given its best years to care children and the elderly.

A sense of injustice is accentuated when we think that within this generation women are penalized more because, in past decades, they were the ones who monopolized the fragility of caregiving, which often sacrificed their careers and education. So what? On one hand, the civil society, with its "charisma," now has a great responsibility in making the last years of life sustainable and happy, with more innovation and creativity. On the other hand, us adult children of today should not forget too quickly the care we have received (and the one we saw given to our grandparents), and seek more just solutions, conscious of the difficult age behavior of the demise of our parents, and of ours tomorrow.

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