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Rather get to old age in Africa - and feel special!

Updated on September 17, 2014

Old age in Africa is considered a blessing - people grow old and get a special status

Old age in Africa is a respected status. If one has to grow old it should be in Africa! There are aspects of African society that are difficult to be fully understood by people from other cultures. Growing old and getting the old age status in African tradition has a special meaning that needs the support of a descriptive explanation in order to be fully appreciated by people who are not African. It is very different from old age status in the Western civilization. Growing old in Africa is considered a blessing. We can hear this kind of statements about old age in other parts of the world too, but in the African communities this is one of the most important principles of co existing and is respected by all the members. It is done so by instinct and very deep rooted cultural imprints rather than the pressure of good manners - it is done according to the very nature of the African way of life. People in Africa grow old and are simply happy about that.

Photo of two people that got to an old age in Africa by Mismatch

Old Age -- African proverbs and sayings - Old wisdom about age and more

"An old man sitting on the ground sees something a child can't see even if he climbs a tree." Dagbani proverb

When people grow old they become the link between the living and the Ancestors

Old people would act on behalf of the young - in their relations with the Ancestors

African society is deeply religious. Christianity as well as Islam are the main religions accepted by Africans - They both exist in a specific form on the continent.-- they are overlaying the old African traditional beliefs. Religions have adapted to and mixed with traditional customs and practices and with local myths and beliefs. African people see nothing uncommon in worshiping the Christian God or Allah in their local church or mosk and then slaughter a goat to honor some angry ancestor and make him send the rain over the dry land; Africans mix into their prayers the figure of God with ancestral characters in their forms of spirits acting along with the living, just as God is supposed to do.

The Ancestors are in the African traditional beliefs as important as God -- but there is no competitive scaling or even the thought of that. They just are, all of them -- and guide the living through signs, benevolent help or punishments in well deserved cases. The Ancestors are part of the current period through their spiritual presence. In many African communities the dead are still buried under the houses of the living -- so they can communicate with them at all times, whenever communication and support is needed.

Current governments' policies of encouraging the use of designated cemeteries is met with resistance and local people still preserve the practice of burying their dead in their own yard. A house will be built over the place soon.When people grow old in Africa and die, they will join the ancestors and that is a good place to be,

The Ancestors are the oldest people in African belief -- so when the living grow old, they prepare to join the club with pride.

When Africans grow old, they check on the younger -- to help, to protect but also to punish, when deserved

People who grow old in Africa are perceived to be in closer communication with the Ancestors -- not surprisingly, as they are closer on their way to meet them. Death is not a definitive parting for Africans, it is only a moment, a stage in life after which the departed -- the passed on person -- keeps close to the loved ones, the members of the community. So, it is obvious that a wise person would like to keep the best relationship with those who soon part -- it is the best way to keep their good will for the future eternity.

When grow old, people take on the role of the protector in one's relationship with the Ancestors.

Old aged people inspiring the young - The stage of old age in a life cycle

The truth shall us deliver - facing the facts of life and old age.

Old Age Is Always 15 Years Older Than I Am
Old Age Is Always 15 Years Older Than I Am
Society opposes aging, despite the evidence that each of us is, in fact, aging. This anti- aging stand is preventing us from thinking about old age with good feelings and that will not create a good elderhood. The best is if we look at it with a good humor and find the better parts of getting to old age - free of certain worries of the young.

Africans and their Ancestors - Africans keep relationships with their Ancestors alive

Africans interact with their Ancestors in a spiritual way. This interaction that is very spiritual and refers to a higher communication with the Universe, even though it is not defined as such but rather in a a customary meaning of keeping generations together for the sake of social balance.

The spiritual world is ever present and never gets older in the African man's life. It affects many of his daily habits. The spirits constantly interact with the living and their good will is important for any African person's peace of mind. Every African child is growing up in this belief and progresses slowly towards old age by turn - to grow old in time. The awareness of this fact is a genuine feeling, strongly part of the African culture. It is not a mental exercise but an attitude that comes together with belonging to the African community. So, there are many reasons to respect old age - and here is the secret to the fully integrated value of respect for old aged people in the African tradition: the respect is not accorded to an individual, to a person that might be nor perfect or even wise as the old are supposed to be. In African culture the respect is for the old age itself - to grow old in Africa is a value as the person becomes a Symbol and ceases to be an individual. As an individual one might have weaknesses that can make sometimes respect to be denied for good reasons - but as a Symbol every old person represents the qualities of the status and becomes almost an abstract entity, a part in the chain that links generation to generation, one after the other.

Amazing old people that keep young at heart - Old people young at heart doing amazing things -- an inspiration for the young

Old aged people can be amazingly young and do things that they like and are good at. Old age does not mean one has to feel old - as the saying goes ; you are as old as you feel! Just keep young at heart. Old age comes with benefits: wisdom, a certain freedom of responsibilities, sense of humor on various issues pf vanity that have lost priority, awareness of the value of the happy moments. Old aged people should commit themselves to enjoy everything they had no time during their children's upbringing and other social or economical commitments.

Time to be of use -- Africans grow old and never quit their place in the community

Old aged people are relied on for all household chores

People grow old in the African communities but they are far from sitting idle. They don't really get over the hill, as still have the most important role in decision making and keeping the extended family together. They never say: I'm getting too old for this! -- when it comes to advising when necessary.

In every community event, the old aged people have the most respected position -- they are greeted and seated personally.

Men and women of old age are asked for advice in important matters and their advice is considered. It is not a dictatorial situation -- younger people will make their own decisions in what they are concerned but they would seek and listen for the support of the elderly's wisdom. Uncles and Aunts are important when the situation requires representation and protection of the interest of a younger person in relation with another family or the chief or an employer --she or he would ask an elder to speak on behalf -- the representation is treated with respect by all those involved. The elder will serve as a warrant for both parties for good will and good faith. When a marriage is planed, the elder from both parties will deal with the process of negotiating the conditions of the union.

During the normal day to day life of the extended family and community, the elders accept responsibility for supervising the children, for cooking, cleaning, sometimes checking in at the cattle post. Every child is considered to be under the authority of any community member of old age -- and they can act as parents, scolding the mischievous child whenever it is the case.

The extended family usually lives in one compound -- a bigger area where individual dwellings are grouped. When young parents work the field or commute nowadays to the central areas of the region, old people will look after the children.

In fact, in African culture the young mothers were considered insufficiently prepared to take responsibility for the child -- not surprisingly if we think about the very young age when girls were married.

In modern African society there are many changes in living conditions but the old values and customary practices based on tradition are still accepted and upheld, with pride lately, as African people realize that old traditions are part of their identity.

Young people show respect to the elders naturally - by choice- and feel in no way infringed upon their own independence or personality by the formal requirements of behavior in interaction with the old people. People grow old simple and natural in Africa and no one questions the reason of this fact.

African symbols - Symbols in African tradition, art and modern day society

Symbols in African culture have a deep cultural meaning -- their decorative use has been an opportunity for African craftsmen to build a treasure of visual gallery. Symbols for Africans have a strong meaning of social classification as they have been used around strict guidelines. African symbols represent abstract concepts that stand for an old cultural system of beliefs and values.

African symbols -- wallpapers - African symbols -- illustrated

African symbols are used by artists and designers nowadays more liberally -- it gose not take a chief or a sangoma to give you permission . There are images of African symbols on DeviantArt or Photobucket that you can print for a card or download for a wallpaper.

getting to an old age in Africa
getting to an old age in Africa

I was of 47 years old when I came to Botswana

The respect shown by African to elders is extended to non African people too -- as it is given to the old age and not the individual.

I was of 47 years old when I came to Botswana-- and a person old enough to be entitled to all those signs of respect that African tradition would prescribe. The most that I enjoyed was when being caught by the police doing bad driving :speeding, ignoring the safety belt or other traffic rules; I always got away with being very nicely asked to be more careful in the future. In one instance there was a younger male friend with me on the passenger's seat, so the police spoke to him in order to avoid offending me, the driver. They told him that please take care of this old lady and make her observe the traffic rules.

I first felt a pinch of an offence -- why, in our Western civilization we do not even refer to aged people as "old". We found ways of avoiding the word -- as if it were something bad -- say senior, say aging, say anything else but the truth about the fact is that when we are over a certain age than we qualify for the term old. Well, those days I also had the same view on the word "old" and was a bit ruffled. Then an old lady but new friend of mine at the time, Mma Sechele, told me that being addressed by "old" is a matter of respect in African culture. Little did I really understand that time -- but I came a long way since.

I witnessed many times in the capital city Gaborone that elder people just stopped loud children on the road, obviously a stranger to them and scolded them for whatever real or perceived bad behavior The kids smiled guiltily and quietened for a second or so before they all forgot again about behaving like ideal children. However, I never noticed animosity or display of rebellious angry signs from their part. In Africa, old people that one does not even know would scold one and that's just a fact of life and everyone has to accept it with good nature.

Nelson Madiba Mandela -- Tata -- at his golden old age -- the Ancestors must be very pleased with him! - One African person to grow old as the symbol of an enti

Nelson Mandela never getting to an old age in his heart!
Nelson Mandela never getting to an old age in his heart!

"Tata" is the Xhosa name for "father". Mr. Mandela is frequently referred to by South Africans by this pet name. He is the most respected and beloved old aged person in Africa, a real symbol for more than just being an old man. I wish him to grow even much older and live happily ever after! At his old age, he is one of the rare political figures that gave up his position of official leader, saying that someone else should now take his place!

Nelson Mandela -- an old man or an Icon? - When Old Age comes naturally

Free Mandela -- the song fro freedom and for Mandela, Nelson Mandela retired after a long period of glorious political activity -- enjoying the combined respect of society, that of an old man an that of an old statesman -- the two can not be separately considered,

Africans -- from tribal community and modern community - Africans worldwide

There is a great number of Africans moving country residency -- due to various reasons. usually it is in the search of a better life in a more developed region on the continent or indeed of the world. Other times Africans are forces to leave their homes because disasters -- man made or natural, or both. Nowadays, as African society develops and average Africans have more options and opportunities, some decide to go for studies abroad. Africans are growing in a better environment, parents or governments make the effort of sending young Africans to good schools in other countries to learn about different cultures and lifestyles -- and hopefully bring home their expertise to share with their home communities.

Old African women -- dance and chant , blessed to grow old in Africa - Grow old in Africa but don't stop dancing!

Old people growing to an old age -- stories and jokes

Old aged people laugh with us

Growing old brings wisdom and old people laugh too -- whether the jokes are about young or old age. Some jokes about the old age are as old as the people that are reading them -- or older. That is not preventing anyone to have a good time reading the old stories about old people.

One is as old as one's heart. Some people are old since their twenties -- others are young forever. A classic example is Hugh Heffner -- he has done what he believed in and fully enjoyed his activity.

I totally subscribe to this wisdom of getting old

"Old age is an excellent time for outrage. My goal is to say or do at least one outrageous thing every week."

Maggie Kuhn

And I totally subscribe to that!

And try daily.

The best comedy ever for the young and for the old: The Gods Must Be Crazy - it all happens in Botswana, Africa -- the characters are of mixed age

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
South African director Jamie Uys caught lightning in a bottle with The Gods Must Be Crazy--a Coke bottle, to be specific. This slaphappy collection of goofy pratfalls and culture-clash gags became an enormous international smash, and made a sort of star out of the Bushman selected to play the central role, the completely ingratiating N!Xau. He plays a man, unaware of white culture, who finds a Coca-Cola bottle in the Kalahari (dropped by a passing pilot) and promptly has his life turned around by this mystical object. The movie looks slipshod and even amateurish at times, yet its attitude is so bubbly it's hard to resist. Proving that physical comedy remains a true international language, millions of moviegoers around the world drank it up. --Robert Horton

Old people in Africa are the same as old people from everywhere -- they all grow old the same

They think about the future and happiness of the next generation

It is sad to mention that average life expectancy dropped drastically in Southern Africa due to the HIV/AIDS. To grow old in Africa became a miracle, besides being perceived as the traditional blessing. Development is bringing changes in social patterns in Africa, in some aspects quite drastically. That affects traditional customs too. However, there are African countries that have a vision to preserve the best of customary practices and traditional values: in Botswana BOTHO, the basic concept that keeps the values of respect for each other in a community alive has been declared the 6th National Principle -- together with Democracy, the first. Young people are also taught to be proud of what African heritage brings to their national identity and integrate local values with the global ones rather than exchange them for, as they learn about them. So young people learn to grow old with pride.

Modern African governments are offering social care for the elders - a concern that was left totally for the extended families in the past.

Modern lifestyle patterns are slowly affecting the old ones. We only can hope that respect for the old age will stay as long as people will still get old.

African traditions and religions -- writers on African spirituality - African religious map on Amazon

The wide subject matter of African religions as topics of books on Amazon.

African religions featured in items on eBay - The great variety of African religious beliefs -- items on autcion

Find the best deal on African religions -- a wide topic and very important. Africa is a space where many religions found ground to grow -- Africans are open to a great variety of religious views and practices.

Are you getting old, ever, or you'll stay young forever? Do you respect people who grow old?? - Do you want to grow old in Africa?

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    • fun-information profile image

      Aditya Gogoi 

      7 years ago from Sunnyvale

      A very interesting article. Blessed!

    • norma-holt profile image


      7 years ago

      As one grows older it becomes more obvious why the wisdom of the mind is more valuable and thus why ancestors are so revered. Beautiful tribute lens featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012-2.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I can relate to Africans feeling close to their ancestors and the spirit world. I often think of my Dad who is no longer alive but who's spirit I feel lives on. I often talk with him in my mind and sometimes hear his advice. Well written lense I enjoyed your personal point of view as well. Thanks for sharing this.

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 

      7 years ago

      Old is gold. Elderly people are respected in civilised society.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image


      8 years ago

      What a wonderful way to think about growing old! I don't know where I'll wind up as I continue to age, but I hope I approach old age with grace and joy.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I am a very young old-timer. I can hold my own with the best of them, even yet - and the older I become the less I want. I am discovering the miracle of being. After all there could be absolutely nothing there!

    • Nightcat profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks so much! We need both our elders and our ancestors in our life. To be without either is to be like a tree without water. I loved the article as it explains some of the titles used to salute ancestors are reverence, not insulting in the Africian view. Thank you!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Reading your article I was very impressed by the African view toward their elderly. I was also thrilled to see that photos you have used linked outward to their source.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love to learn about cultures that respect their elderly. It is sad when getting older is seen as a burden, instead of a blessing that they even lived to be old! A wonderful, thoughtful lens, keep up the great work.

      Li Li

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I am trying to grow old peacefully.

      Wonderful tribute to old people.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Stopping back to enjoy this wonderful creation once again. I remember finding it so fun that you use Hugh Heffner as and example for being young at heart. My Mom just turned 85 and still runs to the mailbox, though she has given up driving. May growing old be a blessing to us all!

    • LouisaDembul profile image


      8 years ago

      I liked the quote by Maggie Kuhn! Yes, Africa is a good place to grow old, where we lived the old were respected and treated well.

    • ColorPetGifts profile image


      8 years ago

      I loved this story of growing old in Africa. I love every day that passes because that means I am one day closer to my Lord. Beautiful lens. And delightful - love the story about the police officer speaking to the passenger so not to offend you. Sweet! Hope you will keep sharing these lovely stories.

    • chezchazz profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      Africa sure sounds like a great place to retire to! Enjoyed this lens a lot.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks pal!

      First of all, Iâm glad that Squidoo team was so thoughtful to think about a âThanks Pal SquidQuestâ and offer us the chance to be grateful to the one who offered us most support in this âetheric worldâ.

      Secondly, I am really glad that you told me about this site introducing me to such an energetic and interactive community where I feel so comfortable and free to express my thoughts, learn from other peopleâ experiences, enrich my knowledge⦠getting out the shall and becoming addicted to it, feeling that I do belong both - to this wonderful website and itâs dedicated participants.

      I joined Squidoo in a quite bad moment of my life, but visiting its pages daily, being triggered to bring my humble contribution with few lenses, having the opportunity to read otherâ âcolleaguesâ lenses, I feel like I won a new family, became excited, and with every single day passing by Iâd like to do more and moreâ¦

      Thank you for all offered support thru my âjourneyâ here - from first step up to now - and most of all, giving me a chance to make peace with myself (still working on it ï ) and reach to a sort of inner balance⦠being creative, bringing sparkles into the eyes and putting a big smile on my face, while giving me the drive for the day! : )

      From the bottom of my heart â thanks pal and thanks Squidoo, as well!

    • KiwiSanet profile image


      8 years ago

      I enjoyed the watching The Gods Must be Crazy. When I look in the mirror, I can see I am getting older but I am still the same young person inside, just wiser.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      In stead of throwing people out of job when they become old, the experience and expertise should be respected. I like the tradition of Africa and it is the same in Asia too.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have a friend who visits Africa every year, and he just loves it there. It would be nice to be able to travel like that, I would love to see Africa. From what I have seen in picture, videos, movies, and read...I know it would be grand.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      Getting older day-by-day and realizing that in America, the young seldom value the wisdom that comes with age. Too bad.

    • traveller27 profile image


      8 years ago

      Very interesting lens and well done. I plan on staying young forever! (or at least not get any older :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very well done lens - I am definitely staying young forever, and I have lots of respect for those older than me!

    • goldenecho profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      Very interesting lens!!!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Well, the older I get, the more I respect old people.

    • viscri8 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      @Krafick: Thank you, Rafick -- getting old in Africa happened to me and it was the best place for it.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I am old enough to feel young; and young enough to feel old. :)

    • Krafick profile image


      9 years ago

      Great lens.


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