Understanding "successful aging" : Cultural and migratory perspectives
Abstract: This dissertation aims to contribute to the rectification of the atheoretization that characterizes the study of aging and diversity through the formulation and preliminary empirical testing of a culturally-relevant theoretical framework for the study of successful aging. Inspired by the Kluckhohnian approach to the study of cultural variation, the framework hereby proposed posits that there is congruence between the understandings of successful aging that people uphold and the value orientations that they prefer in regards to four topics: man-nature, time, activity and relational. Moreover, through the transcultural approach employed (i.e. through the focus on immigrants' understandings as opposed to natives'), this dissertation aims to shed light on how socio-cultural contexts shape the understandings in question and how the process of migration to a culture that significantly differs from one's culture of origin can challenge the manner in which successful aging is understood. Methodologically speaking, this study departs from the adaptation and further development of the vignette-based instrument that Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck designed for the testing of the theory of cultural variation. Qualitative interviews with 30 Iranian immigrants to Sweden (16 men and 14 women between the ages of 35 and 59 who migrated from Iran to Sweden between the ages of 25 and 48) were conducted using vignettes that tap into both, value orientations and understandings of successful aging. The results suggest that congruence exists between value orientations and understandings of successful aging. In addition, other notions were brought to light besides the master- nature; future, doing and individual oriented ones that are often associated with the construct in question. The process of migration was also found to challenge those understandings of successful aging that were believed to be inappropriate for the socio-cultural context in which the respondents now live. Thus, not only are understandings of successful aging contextually determined, they are also much more processual than gerontologists seem to have originally assumed. It is therefore suggested that the culturally-relevant theoretical framework hereby proposed allows for deeper insight into individual, generational as well as cultural understandings of successful aging.
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