Historical Perspectives on Aging (i)

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University of Toronto St. George
William Magee

Chapter 5: Historical Perspectives on Aging Golden Age of Aging o The old were few, but held great power and authority in the community and in the family o The extended family household, which was the site of production and education, was dominated by older family members o Skills needed to pursue a craft passed from the older to the younger generation o Few people were literate o Community traditions were orally transmitted by the elderly o The position of the aged in society: veneration Veneration An attitude toward the aged that emphasizes respect, honor, obligation, and deference; also, a feeling of religious awe and reverence that approaches a form of worship Modernization o A revolutionary process; shattered traditional society o Urbanization drew young people to cities & extended family household was destroyed o Industrialization moved work from the household to the factory o Mass education increased rates of literacy o Veneration of the aged was replaced by a cult of youth o The aged were isolated from families, pushed out of the labour force & forced to spend their final days in institutions o Modernization Theory = true???? (Veneration in Non-Western Cultures) The idea of veneration was borrowed by modernization theorists from non-Western traditional cultures Ex) Kirghiz o Household head, called oey bashi, is the most senior male or female 1 www.notesolution.com o Oey bashi exercises complete authority over the household and represents its social relations with the community Ex) China o Traditional Chinese culture Veneration of the old is linked with Confucian values Zi nurturance (parent child) Xiao filial piety, absolute obedience (child parent, all elderly people) o Communist China (1949~) Shifted responsibility for the aged from the family to the government One child policy reduced the number of kin available to provide care to the elderly The government now provides pensions and health insurance, and number of nursing homes has been growing rapidly In Western preindustrial societies o People have always held negative views of the aged o Most historians believe that the elderly were venerated in the colonial period of US history (Veneration of the Aged in Colonial Times, 1620-1770) Puritan ideals and religious beliefs o Puritans believed predestination; holding high status in the community was seen as an indication of salvation o Puritan ideal = to establish a common wealth in the true sense of the word, a community in which each person put the good of the whole ahead of his or her personal needs o However, difference in status was an inevitable part of colonial society; in this hierarchical society, the elders were guide and leaders Colonial society = gerontocracy (a community ruled by the aged) o Veneration of the elderly was anchored in the Puritans strong religious beliefs, which viewed life as proceeding through a series of developmental stages with spiritual development peaking in old age 2 www.notesolution.com
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