Lesson 085: Responsibility for elderly care
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 4/22 ('Half a Life')


Lwaxana Troi, Counselor Deanna Troi's mother, gets involved in a heated argument with an alien scientist who is about to commit suicide according to his culture's tradition of parricide upon reaching a certain old age.

While Lwaxana finds the concept of old people killing themselves voluntarily abhorrent, the alien scientist defends his tradition by pointing out how it has solved the problem of the elderly on his world and that it does not place any dreadful burden on the children by forcing them to take care of their elderly parents.

Lwaxana points out that, parents raise their children, care for them, suffer for them, and keep them from harm their whole lives; eventually it should be the children's turn to take care of their parents.

When the alien scientist tells her that no parent should ever expect to be paid back for the love they have given their children, she blasts back with 'Why the hell not!'


As we approach the waning years of our lives, it is our human culture and tradition for our children and/or our society to care for us, until it is time for us to depart.

So, is it fair for humans to burden their children with the responsibility of caring for their elderly parents?

If we use the argument of repayment of debt as owed by the children to their parents for raising them, then might the children not be well justified in arguing conversely that since they had no say in their being born, raising them is not so much a debt incurred by them as it is a time-period pay down on a responsibility voluntarily undertaken by the parents?

Additionally, wouldn't the children consider the love and joy and happiness and pride they gave their parents in turn as substantial payoff for any hardships the parents may have faced while raising them?

Finally, as the progenitors, aren't the parents actually the one's who are in debt to their children for continuing their family line and, thereby, giving the parents access to a form of immortality?

In the final analysis, the idea of children caring for their elderly parents is really at the mercy of the parents and no one else, for it is the parents who train and educate the children.

If raised the right way, the parents can instill in their children true love and devotion and a fervent need to be caring of others.

If all else fails, parents can always use the fall back plan of encouraging their children with good old fashioned guilt.

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