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Number Our Days Barbara Myerhoff - Essay Example

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Most often anthropologists immerse themselves in cultures that they are not native to in order to study the people and culture. The point of view is that of an outsider looking in and interpreting what they observe. Barbara Meyerhof, in her book Number Our Days, conducted an anthropologic study of a group of people that she knew she would become a part of as she got older…
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Number Our Days Barbara Myerhoff
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Download file to see previous pages Her study consists of an ethnographic view of aging in one segment of American society. She shows how these people address issues of aging that all people must eventually face.
The group Meyerhof studied was primarily made up of Eastern European Jews that immigrated to the United States prior to the Holocaust. They spoke mostly Yiddish and Hebrew but also could speak English. The group consisted of many elderly struggling to hang on to their independence. The Senior Center provided the support needed for some to remain independent. They ate kosher hot meals at the center and met with friends to discuss whatever caught their interest at the time. The center provided a gathering and socialization point for the group.
The elderly Jewish population studied may have been functioning based upon 'activity theory'. They were happy so long as they remained active and independent. 'Activity Theory' (Havighurst and Friedman) predicts that the elderly are satisfied with life when they hang on to their adult roles in life. The theory also predicts that the most active people are the most satisfied people. According to 'activity theory' to maintain health the elderly need to be actively involved in adult activities of living life, should eat their meals together as a community, and should stay away from activities that would make one lonely. The activities that are included don't necessarily mean that the elderly need to be with other people all the time but that they remain actively taking care of themselves by shopping, keeping appointments, and doing other self-care activities that any adult would be expected to do. In her book Meyerhof described how two elderly women walked slowly along balancing so as not to fall. A fall for them would most probably result in a broken hip and their being shipped off to an old folk's home. Their loss of independence would mean the loss of their satisfaction with life. Removal from their little society in Venice Beach would have been devastating to anyone in this group.
The group studied no longer actively contributed to greater society but added considerably to the group they were a part of. They looked forward to their daily interactions with other group members. A view of where these people fit into greater society would show them as disengaging from one role and undertaking another.
Meyerhof was interested in how these older folks survived. What was it that kept them going Heschel gave his answer as ""I'll tell you how I survive, but you won't like it....The word is 'pain.' Pain is the avenue to getting a soul, getting quality from yourself. This is how you get a life that's really on the essence." He went on to describe how when you are in the business of living you take pain and ignore it. ""So when the pain comes, I am patient. I shut up, active silence; I bear it... ". He went on further to explain to Meyerhof how acceptance of pain rather than medicating oneself (with a tranquilizer) was living. It was his decision to put pain in perspective and get on with the business of living.
One of Meyerhof's great discoveries was that rituals or traditions played a big part in surviving day to day and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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