Aging and the elderly

Diminishing family care systems and need for alternatives

Authored by: Mary Elaine Hegland

The Routledge Handbook of Islam and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815367772
eBook ISBN: 9781351256568
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351256568-24

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Abstract

Iranian elderly have felt the impact of rapid modernization and transformations in lifestyle during the last few decades. Three years of anthropological field research in Aliabad near Shiraz uncovered how the elderly of these several decades are caught between worlds. They grew up in a village where women lived with family members all their lives, devoting themselves to husband and children, and then were cared for in old age by daughters-in-law and children. Now, children leave for education, marriage, and sometimes migrate away, often leaving elderly mothers with less family support. Elderly women live longer and appreciate improved living standards but find themselves in a world where daughters-in-law are more educated and entitled and focused on their own enjoyment and fulfilment, nuclear families, and children’s advancement. Although some new advantages come in Aliabad’s changed world, such as many more religious opportunities and retirement pensions for some, many elderly women are faced with the unaccustomed challenge of living alone when older husbands die. As elderly populations increase in transformed worlds no longer as centered on the extended family, especially elderly women in Aliabad, the rest of Iran, and throughout the Islamic world to one degree or another, need new programs of care and assistance to supplement family support.

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