“We Never Graduate from Care Giving Roles”; Cultural Schemas for Intergenerational Care Role Among Older Adults in Tanzania

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Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology


This paper examines the cultural schemas underlying older persons’ perception of intergenerational care roles. Thirty qualitative in-depth interviews and twenty focus group discussions (N = 120) were conducted among older women and men aged 60 and above. By using this theory, we were able to identify a series of cultural schemas found in older people’s discussions of intergenerational caregiving role. The most prominent shared schemas are; caregiving for elderly is a cultural obligation not a choice, caregiving is a sign of respect, caregiving is a sign of love, caregiving is a source of pride, and caregiving leads to attachment and emotional bonds. Based on these schemas, older people perceived getting care from one’s children as a cultural obligation and not an individual (child) choice. However, the findings show that older people’s life experience differed greatly from the cultural schemas they had as majority were not cared for by their children. Thus, the discrepancies between schemas/expectations and realities of older people led to tension, sadness, frustration and feeling of being neglected. This study suggests that there is need to put in place interventions that encourage intergenerational caregiving. These intervention programmes should seek not only to consider but also to build upon the strength of cultural values and beliefs.

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