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Normal Aging Among Cambodians


After the War in Vietnam Cambodians immigrated to the USA. They visited many cities and stayed in some. Lowell Massachusetts has been one of a number of locations around the country where Cambodians came to live and to build a new community. They brought with them their own beliefs. practices, and sense of community.
The following explores what is normal aging for elder Cambodians.
We are grateful to Saly Pin-Riebe who developed the content of this text




  •  Individuals are considered to be old when they reach fifty(50) years or have grand children. Elders should be religious at this stage and are expected to be very knowledgeable about Khmer history, folk tales, traditions, health practices/remedies, and especially Buddhist rules and prayers.
  • They start to change to be more conservative in their appearance,  way of speaking, and attitude. They have less ambition. Being gentle and peaceful are the main goals.
  • For most elders their main goal is a strong mind set to the high practice of Buddhism. They devote themselves to Buddha or Buddhist rules to do the "Good Deeds" for themselves and for others. They sacrifice everything if they have to for their dedications and/or good deeds.      
  • They are supporting one another through a Buddhist monk or a trusted priest as their leader. They are so dedicating in building and preserving a Buddhist Temple and establishing Buddhist tradition to keep it alive. 
  • They are accepting of any other sources of assistance or beliefs and open to understanding them if nothing is violating their own cultural beliefs and traditions. Yes is always the answer to be nice. There us a No too in their real meaning if asked to eliminate their beliefs.


  •  Elders support and teach the younger generation to preserve and enhance the richness of the Khmer culture and tradition. They can pull and cement the community together. They are religious, cultural, and traditional advisers for the community in all the traditionsl ceremonies and celebrations: Weddings; funerals; New Year Celebration; Prachum-Ben(Mass Memorial day); Open House; Official national festivities.
  • Again, being old are honored and considered. They expect to be treated with privilege and respect. Their advice and action are copied and will be taken.
  • Family members, especially their children, were obligated to accomodate and to pay them back in gratitude: taking care of them well.They expect that their children will pay they with gratitude and take care of them at their old age. Their life is expected to be a Golden Age. If not, the children in the family will get blamed by the society. One parent could take care of 10 kids but those 10 kids can not take care of one parent.



  • Elders are more prepared at this stage.
  • They want the most, preparing their good deeds for their next life when time is close to the end of their life. The best position for elderly at this stage is to become a Healer, Fortune-teller, Monk, Nun, or at least a Priest at the temple.
  • Dying at the Temple is the best or at home but not in the hospital. Dying right at home at the family members' sight with the religious preparation all around is their wish. The same for the survivors: to be there at the last minute of life of one's relative is very important.
  • The wake , the funeral or a few more ceremonies for the death are mostly done at the family home until the day of cremation at the Temple.
  • Elders are cremated and the ashes are kept well in the metal or ceramic urn at home or at the Temple. For the well to do, the family stupa is built at their own home ground to keep their parents' ashes.