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Over the last two decades, there has been a major shift in emphasis in the study of the aging experience. Earlier studies were based largely on conventional survey techniques, which provided a broad range of statistical data about the status of older people, activities of daily living, and the quality of their lives and care. From this material, we have...
Over the last two decades, there has been a major shift in emphasis in the study of the aging experience. Earlier studies were based largely on conventional survey techniques, which provided a broad range of statistical data about the status of older people, activities of daily living, and the quality of their lives and care. From this material, we have gained important information about the condition of the aging population, including the social characteristics of old age for major categories such as class, race, and ethnic differences. Recent years have given rise to more subjectively oriented studies, in which the everyday lives of older people is center stage. A number of researchers feature what they refer to as "personal meaning," that is, the meaning to the persons in question of particular aspects of their lives or of particular social situations of everyday life in old age, such as the retirement community and the nursing home. Old Souls: Aged Women, Poverty, and the Experience of God is an important to addition to these studies. Using a life-story and narrative approach, the authors skillfully probe and carefully explore the meaning of poverty in a sample of elderly black and white women over 70 years of age. The result is a splendidly nuanced and sympathetic appraisal of what it means to be a poor woman in her later years and, in particular, how this enters into the management of daily life. The findings are significant in showing us how poverty in the lives of these women is not just an external condition of living but enters into their experience in different ways, not necessarily impoverishing them, but rather as a condition of their active adaptation to being poor. The result is a picture of resilience and amazing interpersonal and spiritual complexity.
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