Respecting and Caring for Elderly Parents

“Some older couples in Japan are hiring young actresses to visit them on Sundays to say, ‘Hi mom! Hi pop!’ because their own daughters no longer do” (‘TIME Magazine’, 4th July 2011).

Reading about this weird practice against the backdrop of the scandalous way in which some of our own elderly are treated here in Britain begs some serious questions.

Where are our family values? Why do many not treat the elderly with respect and dignity? Why can’t children care for their own elderly? What can the government do to enable young people to care for their elderly relatives?

Amongst all social responsibilities, the greatest is respect and care for the elderly. When a young man asked Muhammed ﷺ, the Prophet of Islam, about the best social good he could carry out, the Prophet ﷺreplied, take care of your elderly mother. On another occasion he said something that has become the cornerstone of family life for many Muslims: “Paradise lies at the feet of your mother.” This is a powerful way to show appreciation for parents, value them and thank them for all their efforts.

I believe that by teaching our children the value of and respect for the elderly, we can at least begin to do something about the problem of how they are treated by so many in contemporary societies. The growing generation gap between the youth and elderly must also be bridged through learning kindness, patience and gratitude. The Quran teaches this simple prayer for our elderly:

“My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small” (Surat al-Isra, verse 24, translation by Sahih International).