In this research paper, I had a one-on-one interview with a man from the African community. At the age of sixty-eight, he had retired from his career life working for a private company as an accountant. Having retired at the age of fifty-five, he had about 13 years at his home doing his own private business.
During his early years, at about 23 years, when he started his career work, stereotypes of old age were a common issue to talk about. In Africa, many challenges are faced by her inhabitants, with as serious as food insecurity and poverty. Another of the challenge likely to be encountered is job insecurity which will cultivate an old age full of languish. Basically in Africa, he expected hardships in various aspects, those are social and economic. ( Atchley 1999 pp 101-104)
Some of the economic stereotypes that he encountered at his early age included, one, the old person would be entitled to a huge burden of taking care of quite a number of children. At there times, a family would have at least eight children. This translated that one would also have children when he was as old as forty years. The burden of taking care of all this kids with the harsh environment would be uncompromising. The poor state of the education system would not be of much benefit to the children. The parent would therefore carry the burden during his retirement. (Levinson 1978 pp 55-60)
Another myth that was widespread that when you are old, you are not able to strong enough to be economically productive. This is quite a threat to an African young man who knows the hardships that he has to encounter.
There also the biological myths which were associated with aging. One, which is very common, is that as one gets old, he is to be accompanied with a certain chronic disease. This is not true as some people have been healthy despite their old age. But even though an old person has a function deficit, they are equally able to adapt to the conditions. (Todd 2002 pp105)
Another traumatizing myth is that old people are not able to acquire new knowledge. The saying ‘You cannot teach an old dog new tricks’ is used as the basis. There are claims that as the age of a person advances, they lose a million neurons each day. (Todd 2002 pp 100)
But scientific study of neurobiology has proved that the human brain is actually able to retain a high degree of nueroplasticity- ability to learn new things- even into advanced stages of life.
Despite the stereotypes that are in old age, one can be able to overcome these stereotypes (Atchley 1999).The respondent on the vivid steps that he took so as not to fall into these myths. These required principled decisions in his early life. Some of the decisions that he made so as to make him financially secure in his late years was to acquire an appropriate retirement scheme. He used good investment programs that have been profitable and do not require much physical effort. He also had a family that was convenient to him basing on the salary he had. (Todd 2002 pp 98-105)
On the biological aspect, he had to acquire behavioral habits that were free from drugs abuse. He quit smoking in his early years as well as using of strong alcoholic drinks. He has therefore been strong and economically productive. ( Rowe 1999 pp 64-72)
The health state of my respondent was of good condition despite the myths that are accompanied with old age. He had an upright posture though we used a walking which is more of a cultural thing for an elderly man to carry a walking stick. He did not have strong eyesight and so he used a pair of spectacles as an aid in reading. This was the only major function deficit that was evident in him.
These are some of the key ingredients for him to maintain such health status. He maintained a special diet so as to sustain him. Using the services of a nutritionist as well as using African indigenous foods and avoiding fatty meat. He also organized exercise sessions and would take most of his time walking rather than using a vehicle. (Nancy 2001 pp 34-37)
The respondent also stated that he was not addicted to any type of drug. He actually mentioned a few of his colleagues who have passed on during his career life while others who at their old age are serious suffering from chronic diseases such as cancer or high blood pressure. He has learned how to cope with stress. He is able to control his anger and temper and is not willing to venture into issues that are stressing.
On the psychological aspect, he was quite able to remember issues. He was able to give relevant informant which even a young sharp person would be of no match. There was no noticeable evidence that his brain had deteriorated. He did not contradict issues that he was asked about. It is quite evident that the situation of aging experience was all out of ones making but not nature.
The respondent talked about his family which was more of an African family. As an African, the aspect of being good or evil was important (Kluckhohn 1953 pp. 342-357). Due to the strict morals that are followed by Africans, one have to portray the best behavior so as to be appropriately be accepted by the society. Some of the practices done in other communities may be termed deviant in his community. One has to conduct him or herself in an appropriate manner so as to be a member of the society.
In the interview the valued personality type and modality of relationship are the most featured of the values discussed by Klukholn. In an African society, a value such as being obedient to the parents as well as the elders of the community is an important aspect that illustrates how good or evil one is. A hardworking trait is also vital. Basing on the African culture, manual work is most evident in the society. For one to fully participate in the family, this is a core value.
In an African community, the issue of family union is an important value to respect. The union of a family is very important in the building of the society. People had to seek support from their families. In the African societies, the family is the basic unit of unity. Members of the same family should show harmony and understanding. Love should be a key value and should be their driving power.
As a family, members are designated to play various roles in the family setup. The father as head is the key in provision of the basic needs. However, this may be changing in the contemporary world with women being engaged in providing for the family. Each member of the family must dutifully participate in the responsibilities they have been designated. In an African society, the structure of the family is more of extended. The nuclear family is not complete to be fully independent. In their family structures, they must incorporate grandparents, uncles, aunties and even some instances the great-grandparents (Kluckhohn 1953 pp. 342-357).
To keep a family as huge as this united is quite a task. And so, for harmony to last in such a family there must be efficient communication among the members. The members therefore organize frequent meetings in which they discuss issues facing their family and the appropriate measures to take. In such a meeting there is a mood of celebration because they are happy together as a family.
In an African society, unity is an important aspect. So there are communal responsibilities on various occasions held in an African calendar. In case of a loss of a relative, it is the responsibility that all the members of the family give the dead a respectful farewell. In case a parent does not economic resources to be able to educate a child, the family has the responsibility that their son or daughter goes to school.
The issue of individuality is not a common feature in the African community setup. People will always help each other in all the aspects although there has been deterioration in practice of values of the community.