In his elderly-optimized societies speech, Jared Diamond compares the treatment of the elderly in traditional and modern societies. While some hunter-gatherer societies neglect, abandon or even kill their elderly, a lot of tribal societies value their aging populace, noting that they are still effective at producing resources and providing knowledge.
In contrast, contemporary societies often hold their elderly in low esteem. Though the population generally enjoys a longer lifespan, better health and increasingly specialized retirement facilities, the elderly remain at a big disadvantage. They are likely to experience prejudice in job applications and the allocation of healthcare resources. Moreover, the American preoccupation with values of self-reliance and independence is also detrimental towards the elderly, who become more dependent with age. Lastly, in an age of widespread literacy, their knowledge is no longer seen as an asset; if anything, their lack of technological fluency is harmful to their livelihood.
Diamond notes that old people in modern societies are more likely to live apart from their loved ones and experience low self-esteem related to leaving the workforce. However, he believes we can improve the conditions of the elderly by making better their value, such as lived experience and childcare abilities.