|Catherine E. Sears, Law Clerk|
The calendar at my parents’ house is a little unusual. It lists mainstream American holidays like Labor Day, of course, but it also features selected holidays from around the world. Because of this, I now know that September 2nd is Independence Day in Vietnam and that September 24th is Republic Day in Trinidad & Tobago. With no disrespect meant to the Vietnamese or Trinidadians, however, the international holiday I found most interesting is September 18th: Respect for the Aged Day in Japan.
I had mixed feelings in reflecting on this holiday. Has our society fallen so far that we really need to designate a day to remind ourselves to respect the elderly? What happened to the Judeo-Christian commandment to “honor thy father and thy mother”? On the other hand, though, elder abuse runs rampant, with perpetrators coming not only from internet or phone scams, but from trusted caregivers and family members. This abuse can take many forms. There is physical abuse or neglect, especially in light of increased frailty and the heightened levels of care that many senior citizens need. Emotional abuse and undue influence occurs when a person manipulates a senior or isolates him from the rest of his family, often taking advantage of his diminished judgment or poor decision-making skills. Financial abuse has become heartbreakingly widespread, with seniors collectively being scammed out of millions of dollars each year as perpetrators take advantage of the good credit and sizeable savings that many elderly individuals have accrued from a lifetime of hard work. Maybe, then, we need a “Respect for the Aged Day” in the United States after all.
Being curious, I researched what exactly “Respect for the Aged Day” entails in Japanese culture. It sounds delightful. This holiday always falls on the third Monday of September, giving people a long weekend to spend time with their families. Consequently, it apparently is a busy travel weekend in Japan, with younger generations making trips across the country to visit their older relatives and spend quality time with them. Visits often include going out to lunch, and many restaurants will let senior citizens eat their favorite meal for free. Families bring gifts and celebrate as though it were the senior’s birthday. People who no longer have older family members often volunteer on this day by providing meals, a comforting visit, or musical entertainment to the senior community. News stories focus on the accomplishments of seniors, and the Japanese government bestows a special silver dish on those seniors who have turned 100 years old within the past year. If the holiday falls in the same week as the Autumnal Equinox, the celebration is extended and people get even more time off from work to be with their families, a phenomenon known as “Silver Week.”
Clearly, I am not Japanese. I am at work and writing this blog today instead of spending time with my grandparents in Connecticut and Massachusetts. However, as cheesy as it sounds, every day truly is “Respect for the Aged Day” at The Peninsula Center. We strive to break the negative stereotypes about lawyers, focusing instead on meeting our clients’ unique needs and doing what is genuinely best for them, not simply what will be the most profitable for us. It may not be as glamorous as a complimentary lunch and a three-day weekend, but we will continue to do our part to protect seniors, accomplish their goals, and help them age with dignity. Happy Respect for the Aged Day!