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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/123456789/1128

Title: OLD AGE AND SOCIAL CHANGE: AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE LIVES OF THE ELDERLY AMONG THE AMHARA OF ENSARO
Authors: Kifle, Mengesha
Advisors: Dr Alula Pankhurst
Copyright: 2002
Date Added: 20-May-2008
Publisher: Addis Ababa University
Abstract: Old people are important members of a given society. Nevertheless, the extent of attention given to this group varies considerably. In Ethiopia, demographic reports unanimously indicate that the conventional productive and reproductive age group ranges between 15-49 years. This implicitly shows that those aged over 50 are not considered important. THIS STUDY WAS DESIGNED TO EXPLORE THE LIVELIHOODS OF OLD PEOPLE IN RURAL AREA, AN IMPORTANT AND YETPOORLY STUDIED GROUP. THE STUDY WAS CARRIED OUT AMONG THE AMHARA OF ENSARO. THE MAJOR OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY WERE TO DESCRIBE THE LIFE OF THE ELDERLY IN THE CONTEXT OF LOCAL SOCIAL, CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC FRAMEWORKS. THE STUDY SPECIFICALLY ADDRESSES SUCH QUESTIONS AS EMIC DEFINITIONS OF OLD AGE, DYNAMICS OF OLD PEOPLE’S LIFE STYLES, GENDER RELATED ACTIVITIES OF OLD PEOPLE AND INTRA AND INTER GENERATIONAL TIES BETWEEN THE OLD PEOPLE AND THE YOUNGER GENERATION. DATA RELEVANT TO THE STATED OBJECTIVES HAVE BEEN COLLECTED USING A COMBINATION OF TECHNIQUES. THESE INCLUDE PARTICIPATORY OBSERVATION, FOCUS GROUP DISCUSSIONS, IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS, SAMPLE SURVEY, TAKING PICTURES, AND RECORDING DAILY ROUTINES AND EVENTS. THESE METHODS ARE DESIGNED TO COMPLIMENT EACH OTHER. FORTY INFORMANTS WERE CHOSEN PURPOSEFULLY FROM THE TOTAL NUMBER OF THREE HUNDRED SIXTY THREE PEOPLE AGED FIFTY-FIVE AND ABOVE. The major findings of the study show that definitions of old age are based on biological, functional, psychological, and social attributes. However, functional attributes were found to be common markers of old age. As long as a person carries out his normal activities he is not considered to be old. Based on a chronological definition, it was gathered that local people established the onset of old age and three categories of elders. Age 55 is regarded as the threshold of old age and age brackets 55-65, 65-75, and 76 and above are considered young-old, middle-old and old-old respectively. The study explores the roles and statuses of old people under three Government administrations (Haile Selassie, Derg, and EPRDF). In the Haile Selassie (Monarchic) regime elders had a high status and role and commanded good respect. It can be argued that this is mainly because children were directly allocated land by their parents when they established households of their own which in turn strengthens filial piety and respect toward their parents. Elders were responsible to handle such social problems as blood feuds and other conflicts in their community. During the Derg regime, however, land was nationalized and redistributed among members of the society. Most of the children who reached the marriageable age could be allocated land through leaders of peasant association. This trend had a negative impact with regard to respect and filial piety towards the aged. Furthermore, the emergence of various mass organizations eroded the role and status of the aged, most of the young became orators in public in the presence of elders, unlike previously. Under the present government (EPRDF) land was redistributed and those who were labeled as ‘feudal’ during the Derg regime suffered again during this regime and were labeled as kirit fudal (remnant-feudal) and those who were involved in the Derg bureaucracy within the peasant association were labeled as ‘bureaucrats’ and allotted only four gemed (one hectare) irrespective of the size of their household. Most of these people (‘bureaucrats’) have already reached old age and were the subject of this study. Like other Amhara societies, Ensaro is a male dominated community. Despite this fact, gender roles and activities are relaxed to some extent and sometimes reversed in old age. Housekeeping and looking after children by old people are some of the cases in point. Intra and inter generation ties are important strategies to adjust to different problems of old age. Good relationships with spouses, children, and other kin group members are taken as vital mechanism to cope with problems. The support system between male children and elderly parents is reciprocal where children are nurtured early in their life and latter benefit from their elderly parents property while elderly parents obtain immediate care and attention from their male children. Most often social problems of the elderly are argued to be an urban phenomenon. However, this study clearly found that the problems are widespread in at least this area. It was found that the poor elders are denied proper care and support from potential caretakers mainly because this group do not have sufficient property to share. The middle-old and the old-old categories are vulnerable to socio-economic problems, mainly the later for they are not able to augment their income by participating in various activities. Abuse in old age such as neglect, exploitation, abandonment, and physical attack are also prevalent among the old age group with relatively more effects on the poor elders. Elders follow various mechanisms to sustain their livelihoods. The poor youngold participate in other activities such as daily labour, selling sugarcane and wild fruits, and some of them send out their male children to adjust the size of their households and also to obtain income in the form of grain from the labour of their children. The middleold and the old-old, mainly the later depend on caretakers, mainly children. They also attend church services and receive food alms around churchyards.
Description: A Thesis Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies of Addis Ababa University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Social Anthropology
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/123456789/1128
Appears in:Thesis - Social Anthropology

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