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|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
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
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|
|Appears in:||Thesis - Social Anthropology |
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