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Gettin' Some Age on Me

Gettin' Some Age on Me: Social Organization of Older People in a Rural American Community

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Gettin' Some Age on Me
    Book Description:

    The social life of older rural Americans is made up of relationships formed through kinship, their neighborhoods, and the organizations to which they belong. These social institutions are shaped by the ways people use them, and therefore change through time. In this precedent-setting study, John van Willigen uses the concept of social network to investigate life-course changes in the relationships of older people within the context of community history.

    Gettin' Some Age on Megrew out of a study of more than 130 older people in a rural Kentucky county. They were interviewed concerning their relationships with others, and data were collected on the give and take of support that is part of their social life. An understanding of community life and history, developed through interviews and period documentation, provided a context for understanding the changes these people have experienced over time. Finally, related studies by other researchers provided a framework for interpreting rural and urban differences.

    Van Willigen skillfully interweaves these various accounts to reveal fundamentally important patterns. It is clear that these other people should be viewed not as dependent and isolated but as important sources for social support; that even though their social relationships decline in number late in life, early in the post retirement period there is an apparent increase in social involvement; and that older people are much less isolated in the rural community studied than in many urban areas.

    This book makes a substantial contribution to the very limited literature on aging in rural America. It is important reading for social gerontologists and for all social scientists with an interest in American communities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5947-8
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface: Growing Old in Rural America
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. 1. Age and Social Organization
    (pp. 1-28)

    On Sundays around dinnertime, Aunt Marthy liked to look out her window for people going home after church. For most of her eighty years she had been a member there, although she no longer felt able to attend. The white frame church had stood there across the road since before she could remember.

    Most days, she’d sit in the creaky, overstuffed chair placed where she could see both the road that went to the river bridge and her niece’s children as they played in her living room. She looked after them most weekdays; Wanda, their recently divorced mother, was working...

  5. 2. Social Ecology of Ridge County, Kentucky
    (pp. 29-55)

    Luke felt tired and stiff as he leaned over to stoke the sheet-metal stove, glowing a dull red, which stood at the rear of the stripping room. Just last night he had figured out that this was his fifty-second crop of burley tobacco, not counting the two that he missed during the war. Most of the crop had cured out real well. About a quarter of it still hung, brown and lank, in his barn, and Luke planned to take the last of it down Monday night. He was well into the stripping, even though he was having trouble getting...

  6. 3. Collecting Data
    (pp. 56-75)

    Vernon: In the years past, say fifteen to twenty years ago, he’d hire a bunch of young boys . . . and put up his own hay and enough to feed his cattle. In the past ten years, you can’t hardly get it done.John: So it’s not so much having to do with him getting older, it was just the shortage of labor. Vernon: That’s part of it. And him getting old too. He had tractors and all like that, but he would mow his own . . . keep his land cleaned off, you know, and do that...

  7. 4. Farm, Family and Homeplace
    (pp. 76-96)

    Two of them sat solidly in the stubble of brown grass above the pond. The third, Lewis, was fixing to stand, and he began to stretch out his gangly frame. They were there to watch Billy Elliot clean Johnny Tolliver’s pond with his bulldozer. Lewis had just finished picking the last of the green peppers that he had encouraged his grandkids to raise to help pay for college. The peppers had done the kids some good; most were sold under a contract in a nearby town. Lewis had picked a last bushel for his wife to can and freeze, although...

  8. 5. The Networks
    (pp. 97-120)

    They had been married sixty-two years. Over a year ago Paul had resigned as head usher at church after what the doctor in Aberdeen had described as a little stroke. It happened on a terribly hot Friday afternoon in August. He was trying to cut the grass before the weekend. Most people tried to clean up their yards late Fridays or Saturday if they had a job in town. He felt all right now, but he tired out more quickly and had to work harder at keeping track of things. Nettie, well Nettie was the same old Nettie, she’d speak...

  9. 6. Network Exchange
    (pp. 121-135)

    Porter and Ruby turned into their driveway. Ruby turned out of the seat of the Ford pickup, being careful not to snag her nylons, purposefully strode up the graveled drive, and disappeared into the house. By habit, Porter stopped to see if everything was in order. The newly weaned bull calf stood listlessly in the paddock as if resigned to his pickup truck ride in the morning. Porter knew that Ruby would be doctoring the two new heifers after the dishes. They had invited guests for dinner, Ruby’s brother and his new lady friend.

    Sunday dinner is the most elaborate...

  10. 7. Old Friends and Perfect Strangers
    (pp. 136-162)

    Social organization is the outcome of choice expressed through social structures, conditioned by history and environment. This research addresses the social network aspect of the social organization of older people living in Ridge County. The foundation is a body of analyzed social network data coupled with selected ethnographic and culture history data from the community studied and a comparison with conceptually similar studies carried out in other American communities. These data support research conclusions in three areas. The first is the nature of social networks of older people in a single community with commentary on life-course changes as approximated through...

  11. Appendix: Network Profile Instructions and Schedule
    (pp. 163-167)
  12. References Cited
    (pp. 168-182)
  13. Index
    (pp. 183-190)