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This video was filmed on January 8th, 2013 as part of the National Geographic Live! lecture series at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.


National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Explorer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond studies how traditional societies around the world treat the aging members of their tribes. He suggests that these cultures have much to teach us about the treatment of our elderly in modern societies. Diamond's field experience includes 22 expeditions to New Guinea and neighboring islands to study the ecology and evolution of birds, the rediscovery of New Guinea's long-lost golden fronted bowerbird, and other field projects in North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.


  • Traditional tribal societies and the opportunity they present for modern societies to learn from them (start-5:16 min.)
  • Overview of how tribal societies treat their elderly (5:17-6:19 min.)
  • Treatment of the elderly: the negative extreme (6:20-8:18 min.)
  • Treatment of the elderly: the positive extreme (8:19-9:19 min.)
  • Two reasons why treatment of the elderly differs: usefulness and a society's cultural values (9:20-9:33 min.)
  • Usefulness: what the elderly can contribute to society (9:34-12:06 min.)
  • Society's cultural values: impact (12:07-13:09 min.)
  • The low status of the elderly in the United States (13:10-13:57 min.)
  • How modern society has impacted the status of the elderly (13:58-16:24 min.)
  • How to improve the usefulness of the elderly in the U.S. and increase their cultural value (16:25-17:35 min.)
  • Conclusion: what we can learn about the treatment of the elderly from tribal societies (17:36-18:51 min.)

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anything an organism does involving action or response to stimulation.

cultural anthropology

study of the learned behavior of groups of people in specific environments.




pre-eminent explorers and scientists collaborating with the National Geographic Society to make groundbreaking discoveries that generate critical scientific information, conservation-related initiatives and compelling stories.


person who gets food by using a combination of hunting, fishing, and foraging.


large community, linked through similarities or relationships.


community made of one or several family groups sharing a common culture.