Managing Change in Old Age
The Control of Meaning in an Institutional Setting
Publication Year: 1992
Published by: State University of New York Press
LIST OF TABLES
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Entering the realm of old age has been a lengthy and arduous journey. It began with extensive fieldwork commenced in the early seventies in an Israeli old-age home whose turbulent and unpredictable life was as surprising as it was indecipherable. The self-contradictory position of the residents as dependent and independent, active...
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Caught between fears and misconceptions, apprehensions and prejudice, the student of old age gropes his way in the unknown Country of the old. Equipped with a mental map, designed and sketched out by one generation of sociocultural gerontologists, someone searching for orientations and establishing bearings would find this to be a self-subversive enterprise...
INTRODUCTION: ON MANAGING CHANGE IN OLD AGE
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Old-age homes are often conceived of as isolated social realities sequestrated from the outside world, displaying the well-recognized characteristics of total institutions. Brief encounters with such establishments usually confirm and deepen that impression. Such a concentration of physically and mentally impaired persons meeting the eye of the casual observer...
1. THE SETTING
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The transition of an aged individual from a community-oriented lifestyle to an institutional setting is a process constrained by a complex set of environmental factors. The bureaucratic, organizational arena within which the Home operates—the physical surroundings, the material conditions and the services in the institution—all represent predetermined circumstances...
2. SPHERES OF RELEVANCE
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The physical and organizational boundaries of the old-age home constitute one set of factors, but not necessarily the pivotal axis in shaping the residents' social construction of reality. Admission to the institution and residence there stamps the inhabitants with the social stigma of being the unwanted aged. Such labelling has wide-ranging implications for...
3. FIELDS OF CONTROL
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The organization of life in the home should not be viewed in terms of a rigid framework of predetermined activities, based on a fixed daily schedule and other constants the old people are obliged to accept. Rather, the model informing the description and analysis to follow is one of constant negotiation of social images and their control (Strauss et al., 1963). This examination will...
4. THE DISCUSSION GROUP
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This group is considered by its own participants, the manager, and other residents alike to constitute the home's "elite," and this designation is widely accepted in references to its members. The way this situation has evolved will be clarified forthwith, but at this stage a number of questions will be posed that will serve as an introduction to the presentation of material...
5. THE HANDICRAFTS GROUP
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The introduction of occupational therapy into the framework of activities of a total institution or any establishment for economically redundant individuals is a widely accepted and almost taken-for-granted aspect of the attitude towards them and of any treatment program directed at "helping" them. It is also assumed that participation in this...
6. THE SYNAGOGUE GROUP
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Moberg and Taves (1965) cite a series of studies attesting to the importance of religious activity in adaptation to oldage (including the resident elderly in old age homes). According to their findings, the higher the level of participation in a religious framework, the more likely it is that the older person will be able to cope with the problem of old age...
7. CONCLUSION: MANAGING CHANGE — A SYNCHRONIC PERSPECTIVE
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The dynamic, turbulent character of social life in the home seems a far cry from the image of the aged suffering from the degenerating, institutionalization syndrome so commonly portrayed in the sociological literature.1Moreover, the vitality of the residents is not commensurate with the passivity and withdrawal generally associated with...
POSTSCRIPT: ACCOUNTS AND ACCOUNTABILITY — REPORTING OLD AGE
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Any ethnographic description is a practical execution of an underlying conception of the field in question. Such descriptive practice is explicitly or implicitly guided by a code of documentation subjected to a language within which a certain understanding of the reported reality is shaped and with which communication could be established. It is a complex...
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Page Count: 182
Publication Year: 1992
Series Title: SUNY series in Anthropology and Judaic Studies (discontinued)
Series Editor Byline: Walter P. Zenner