Folklore, Culture, and Aging: A Research Guide

Folklore, Culture, and Aging: A Research Guide

Folklore, Culture, and Aging: A Research Guide

Folklore, Culture, and Aging: A Research Guide


A resource guide by and about elders and the process of aging, this volume provides a list of over 1,500 references, all annotated, covering a wide range of subject areas. It is organized under such topics as "Customs and Beliefs," "Narratives," "Traditional Arts," "Health and Healing," and "Applied Folklore," and is further divided into regional and topical subheadings. It also features works on methods and concepts in field research in folklore, oral history, and community studies, a chapter on general works from other fields of interest, as well as a chapter on films. The introduction offers not only a description of the nature and role of elders as creators and carriers of culture, but also a challenge to readers--reflected in the broad range of materials cited--defying both narrow conceptions of aging and the aged, and limited notions about the full scope of expressive culture addressed by folklore studies.


This book is the outcome of years of work developing community-based educational programs for older adults. My initial training was in anthropology and folklore; interested in everything from ballads to ethnic and occupational folklore, as well as the lore of social movements, I ventured, as a doctoral candidate in Folklore & Mythology at UCLA in the early 1980s, into oral history. As the child of Jewish radical activists, it was natural that I would interview elderly Jewish immigrants who participated in the ethnic left subculture known as the Jewish Labor Movement. Serendipity guided me in 1984 to a "post-doc" job in Connecticut as a "scholar-in-residence" with the State Department on Aging, funded by a grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council.

Assigned the mission of developing models and a resource inventory for on-site educational programs in senior centers, nursing homes, elder housing projects and the like, I collected cultural and historical materials, and recorded personal narratives, which were woven into a variety of educational projects, a number of them reflecting the content, methods and outlook of the folklorist (see G.56).

Having come into the field of aging through the "back door," I eventually made my way to the front by earning a certificate in Gerontology from the School of Family Studies at the University of Connecticut. Over a decade later, I continue, under the aegis of the Department of Social Services (into which the Department on Aging merged a few years back) to offer community-based educational programs for elders, and take on occasional college/university teaching assignments in gerontology and folklore.


All of this is by way of at least partially explaining the purpose and scope of the present work. Reflecting both scholarly and community-action approaches, it is designed to serve those engaged in researching or preparing to teach about folklore, culture, and aging, and is also addressed to the specialist and nonspecialist alike working with the elderly who seek information on the value of folklore in providing culturally sensitive care, services and advocacy. In order to meet these different but often related needs, this work is organized, though not consistently, by ethnicity, region, gender and folklore genre, as well as by social practice, with a chapter on applied folklore listing citations that specifically address the application of folklore methods, concepts and materials to social interventions of various kinds, from health care to education.

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