Managing Change in Old Age: The Control of Meaning in an Institutional Setting

SUNY Press
Free sample

This book is an ethnographic study of an old age home in Israel that sheds light on the existential experience of elderly retirees. Hazan looks carefully at the universal concerns of old age, specifically examining the nature of everyday life in the institutional setting. He shows the workings of the micropolitics of control in an old age home and the tension between controlling dwindling resources and sustaining life-long meaning for residents. He also effectively brings out distinctive features of the Israeli situation, its cultural and bureaucratic codes. Hazan’s study of the life cycle, based in the anthropology of process, is a senstive portrayal of the dynamics of institutionalized elderly in a complex society.
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About the author

Haim Hazan is in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel-Aviv University.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Feb 1, 2012
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Pages
182
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ISBN
9781438406268
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Middle East / Israel & Palestine
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In October 1995, a blind, deaf, French grandmother broke a world record. Jeanne Calment became, so far as we know, the oldest human being who has ever lived when she reached the age of 120 years and 238 days. She went on to survive for nearly three more years—dying in 1997 at 122 years and 164 days. On the long journey to her record-breaking age, Madame Calment acquired more and more company. The United States today has more centenarians than any other country, and they are the fastest-growing section of the population, with at least fourteen times as many centenarians as there were sixty years ago. Secrets of the Centenarians delves into the intriguing background of this incredible increase.

In the book, John Withington explores the factors that determine who among us will reach one hundred and who will not. Is it determined by lifestyle or by genetics or by geography? Why do women outnumber men so heavily among centenarians? What kind of life can you expect if you reach one hundred? Is surviving that long a blessing or a curse? Withington answers these questions and more, along the way telling stories of celebrity centenarians like the comedians Bob Hope and George Burns, songwriter Irving Berlin, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Britain’s Queen Mother, and the scientist who invented LSD. Finally, Withington explores whether—even if the number of centenarians keeps increasing—there remains a maximum life span beyond which we cannot survive.

Thoughtful, well-researched, and highly entertaining, Secrets of the Centenarians reveals some of the most intriguing secrets of growing older.
In the twentieth century, all developed nations began to undergo unprecedented demographic changes, as their birth rates declined, and life expectancies increased significantly --an average of thirty years in less than a century. These developments have caused major transformations in the composition of populations in these countries, especially in terms of the proportions of the various age groups. While the age groups of children and adolescents have decreased, those of elderly persons aged 65 and over, have increased. Consistent with the situation in other developed nations, the absolute number and percentage of elderly persons in the Israeli population is increasing, while the percentage of younger persons is decreasing. Israel, however, differs from other developed countries in the pace of this demographic change, the composition of its population, and the ways it can address needs related to aging. The demographic figures in Israel indicate that not only is the proportion of elderly persons in the total population growing, but that the old population itself is rapidly aging as well. This volume exemplifies how social science research can promote knowledge about and understanding of needs and opportunities for adaptation, and assist in evaluating the outcomes of policies and services on the personal, community and national levels, as well as suggest required changes. The variety of topics covered in this volume on age-related research, policies and practice reflects a wide range of research by Israeli scholars on social aspects of aging. Their research offers a glimpse into the knowledge base that has been built over the years on the aging process in Israel, the population of elderly people, and the national policies and network of services for the aged. Other developed countries with aging populations have much to learn from the Israeli experience. Sara Carmel is professor of medical sociology and gerontology at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, head of the Center for Multidisciplinary Research in Aging, President of the Israel Gerontological Society, President of ILC-Israel, and founding head of the Israel National Fund for Research in Aging at the Ministry of Senior Affairs. She is the author of more than 150 scientific publications including two edited volumes on global aging, and has served on numerous national and international committees for academic and policy affairs.
In one of his earlier books, "Living and Dying at Murray Manor, "the author availed himself of ethnographic techniques to explore the experience of life in a nursing home. This volume extends that exploration to an assessment of the quality of long-term care provided to residents of nursing homes, and of the resulting quality of lives.

Taking a bottom-up rather than a top-down view, Gubrium presents these qualities in the voices of "the residents themselves, in collaboration with the interviewer. Because many residents have been "long stayers" in nursing facilities, they are confronted with matters of home, family, life history, dependence, isolation, self-worth, even destiny in ways that would be irrelevant in shorter hospital stays. Such matters present significant narrative contexts for conveying the subjective meaning of the quality assurance that has become a leading goal of health care delivery.

Two key concepts are employed to organize and interpret the narratives: narrative linkages and horizons of meaning. Narrative linkages refer to the experiences, inside or outside the nursing home, that are drawn upon to communicate subjective meaning. A horizon is the pattern of narrative linkages a resident conveys in speaking of life. The approach and narrative material provide conceptual, methodological, and personal lessons. The issues raised by Gubrium's book are informed by a view of residents as biographically active and by the expectation of narrative diversity. He relates thereby a personal encounter with storytellers who offer the listener the broad range of orientations and special circumstances that continue to make meaning even at the very end of life.

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