Determined Survivors: Community Life among the Urban Elderly

Determined Survivors: Community Life among the Urban Elderly

Determined Survivors: Community Life among the Urban Elderly

Determined Survivors: Community Life among the Urban Elderly

Excerpt

This book is a study of survivorship in old age. Specifically, the focus is on the survival challenges confronting a group of elderly men and women living in single apartment units at the St. Regis, an age-segregated, high-rise public housing project in the inner city of Los Angeles. Common themes emerge, however, that transcend differences in socioeconomic status and personal circumstances. To be old is to be socially marginal in a society that prizes the vigors of youth in contrast to the wrinkles and reduced capacities of later life. Thus the challenge in old age is to remain socially viable -- to preserve a valued life style in preferred surroundings in spite of losses in income, health, and available support systems.

Indeed, differences exist both in the coping skills that we use and in the personal and social resources we have with which to counter the alterations in life circumstances we all must face. Finances determine the quality of medical care, housing, and recreation. Family and friendship networks influence the amount of supportive care available in time of need; personal ability to contend with crises such as health losses and changes in residence varies according to lifelong coping patterns. Whether the focus is on community life in a life-care home, an affluent condominium complex, or a mobile home park or on the efforts of elderly people to remain in their communities of origin, the primary issue is maintaining independence within the constraints of the cumulative changes that are inevitable in the process of growing old.

Selecting a retirement community for single, aged people, in downtown Los Angeles as a site for my research was a conse-

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