Growing old is a universal reality, but the process of aging and how the elderly are viewed varies from culture to culture. This course will explore what aging and being old entail in a variety of cultures as well in our own. We will focus on the influence of culture in the lives of older people in such areas as quality of life in relation to gender, caste, class, religion and ethnicity; and institutions taking care of the older people. Topics covered in this course are such as the increasing number of older people cross culturally, shrinking familial and institutional responsibility to the care of the elderly, the impact of globalization on the elderly population in different parts of the world and the role of state in policy making in relation to caring the old. Ethnographic examples to explore such issues will be selected from most of the sites we will be visiting during our voyage. We will explore cultural diversity dealing with old care through reading a body of literature, field exploration as well as viewing films.
Field WorkCountry: China
Day: 1 - Sunday, 31 January
This lab will include material on aging programs and policies in China, Japan and greater Asia, and feature a visit to an elderly home and interactions with the residents and the concerned officials. This field lab, other field trips, and independent experiences you have, will be incorporated into a paper, and these will count for 20% of the course grade. In some of the other projects and trips you choose, focus on one or more of the central themes in this course, including family, community and life in a traditional society becoming modern; the daily lives of older people; intergenerational relations; medical care and public health as these affect young and old; social and governmental services for different generations; the role of religion over the life course; and the place of historical memory in the lives of elders.
Beyond the field lab in Shanghai, your other field experiences can include participant-observation and/or service learning at historical sites, senior centers, medical facilities, religious institutions, social agencies, nursing homes, and other organizations that serve elderly people, their families and communities. A family home stay or visit would also be a very suitable project: this would provide a chance to learn directly about inter-generational relations, and about the status and treatment of elders within households.
Each student is required to participate in and eventually write up the field lab from Shanghai: your paper (5-6 pages) should also include comparisons with what you have learned about aging, and social programs and policies, from your experiences in at least one other country on our voyage.
1. To introduce students to different methods of taking care of the elderly in a different cultural context.