Part D Summary of Research Proposal
1. Specific Aims-
The specific aims of this study will be to conduct a multi-generational research project on the perceptions and experiences of the aged and the aging process in Chavadi Pudur, India. Through semi-structured interviews and participant observation among three generational age groups (18-30, 35-55, and 60+) this research hopes to identify how aging is perceived across generations. Focusing on how individuals in all three-age brackets perceive of the eldest age group as well as the actual process of aging. Is there a variation between an 18 year olds perception of aging and those of a 45 year old? What are those variations? How have these perceptions been influenced by there experiences with aging? The purpose of this study will be to add to the academic understanding of the perceptions of aging in India specifically within the state of Tamil Nadu.
As a multi-generational study I hope to determine how different generational groups perceive and experience the aging process in Chavadi Pudur, India. Perceptions of the aging process will likely differ between generational groups. This differing may be associated with various experiences with the aging process and broader generational attitudes, and individual perceptions. Semi-structured interviews and participant observation will be used to answer the previous research question of how individuals within generational groups perceive of and experience the aging process.
3. Background and Significance
Old, elderly, aged, old-old, grandparent, great-grandparent, graying population, and aging (to list a few) are all names used to describe a distinct set of individuals within society. As one age stratification theorist described it, “age mobility is universal, inevitable, and unidirectional” (Foner 1984). The aging process is a continuum from one stage in life to another. Every individual that goes through the process of aging will experience it differently. Religious beliefs, individual health, familial ties, and culture all affect the way that we age. Aging has been measured along multiple spectrums with the most commonly defined measurements of aging including but not limited to chronological, biological, psychological, and social age. In American society the bench mark for most studies done on aging are set at the chronological age of 65 years. “However, there is no more agreement among elders then among the young as to when one becomes ‘old’. Thus, there is little consensus about the beginning of old age.” (Palmore,1999) In India, “Persons above sixty years of age are classified as aged persons.” (helpageindia.org) The debate over how age is defined is one of the many topics currently studied in the field of gerontology.
Gerontology has grown along with the elderly population throughout the world. The most recent data available (published in 2010) by the U.S. Census Bureau has the U.S. population of individuals over the age of 65 years numbering, “39.6 million in 2009. They represented 12.9% of the U.S. population, over one in every eight Americans. In 2050, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to be 88.5 million, more than double its projected population of 40.2 million in 2010.” (US Census Bureau, 2010) The United States is not the only country with an aging population. The World Health Organization has estimated that, “70% of all older people now live in low or middle-income countries. Population ageing is also occurring much faster in these countries.” (WHO, 2011) India currently has one of the fastest and largest growing aging population. “The size of India’s elderly population aged 60 and above is expected to increase from 77 million in 2001 to 179 million in 2031and further to 301 million in 2051.” (Rajan, 2006) In 2005 it was reported through census records that, “the Indian population has approximately tripled during the last 50 years, but the number of elderly Indians has increased more than fourfold. When considering the continuation of the trend, the United Nations predicts that the Indian population will again grow by 50 percent in the next 50 years, whereas the elderly population is expected to grow another fourfold.” (Bhattacharya, 2005)
Approaches to aging and topics studied with the discipline of gerontology have been numerous. This project will focus on the perceptions of and experiences with aging across three generational groups in Chavadi Pudur, Tamil Nadu, India. In order to answer this question it will first be necessary to identify current perceptions of aging, aging in an Indian context, and the use of multi-generational studies.
Perceptions and attitudes toward aging and the aged have been studied in many cultures across the world. Often this research focuses on the negative aspects of aging. Areas of study have included social policy, government funding, and family structure. These are frequently listed as negatives and challenges that come with an aging population. The World Health Organization recently added to the above list the following challenges, “strains on pension and social security systems; increasing demand for health care; bigger need for trained-health workforce in gerontology; increasing demand for long-term care, and the raising of pervasive ageism that denies older people the rights and opportunities available for other adults.” (WHO, 2011)
Ageism was a term that was originally coined in 1969 by Robert Butler to describe a form of discrimination against age. Similar to other forms of ‘ism’s’ such as sexism and racism this new term was used to verbalize a prevalent form of thinking (subconsciously or otherwise). “Ageism reflects a deep seated uneasiness on the part of the young and middle-aged – a personal revulsion to and distaste for growing old, disease, disability; and a fear of powerlessness, ‘uselessness’, and death.” (Butler, 1969) Building on the original work produced by Butler the topic of ageism has been studied from various angles and across the globe. Erdman Palmore has been one of the greatest contributors to the study of ageism. Palmore has added upon Butler’s original definition of ageism with research from the last 40 years. This research has focused mainly on the prevalence of ageism both negative and positive. (Palmore,1999) His studies have included the creation and use of the Facts on Aging Quiz. This questionnaire has been used throughout the U.S and adapted in other countries to determine the rate of ageism. Along with Palmore, Jennie Keith did early studies on the perceptions of aging. She conducted a survey in 1976 that concluded that, “Younger people consistently think that old people are worse off than they are: sicker, poorer, more passive, lonelier. Old people also think more highly of themselves than they do of old people on the whole. The old, in other words, share many stereotypes of old age, and feel good as individuals because they don’t fit them.” (Keith, 1982) More recent studies of ageism have also been conducted within different parts of India. Research by Prakash (2007), Bhat(2001), Jamuna (2007), Ramanurti (2007), and Dhillon(1992) have all looked at aspects of ageism within the Indian Context. In a study completed by Jamuna and Ramanurti in urban and rural areas of Andra Pradesh they found that, “nearly a majority of the total population held negative views of the aged.” (2007) Similarly stated by Prakash is the belief that, “no country, no culture is free from ageism at present.” (2007)
The ways individuals experience ageism is closely associated with the cultural concepts regarding the aging process. The United States is a strong example of a youth dominated culture. At the age of 40 individuals are celebrated as being ‘over the hill’. Age defying products, cosmetic surgery, and the media are all further examples of the ways in which Americans favor a youth dominated culture. “All of this has affected the self-concept of older adults. Older adults fear old age and hate themselves for growing old.” (Jones, 1977) Cultural concepts of age in India are, like many places, traditionally viewed in both a positive and negative light. In the traditional Indian context, ‘old age is associated with wisdom, respect and the potential for spiritual growth. On the negative side it is associated with physical and mental decline, stereotyped as self-pitying, unhappy, complaining and unproductive.” (Bhat and Dhruvarajan, 2001) These positive and negative perceptions of old age will be explored throughout this study.
Attitudes and perceptions toward aging can be collected from three different views points. These perspectives include the young’s view of the old, the old’s views of themselves, and the old’s views of how society views them. (Timonen, 2008) “When we examine intergenerational relations, we see ourselves both coming and going. A look to our seniors gives us ideas about were we are going. A glance toward our juniors reminds us of where we have come from. Recognizing that lives move through social structures and historical events, a distinctive framework, the life-course, has emerged primarily within gerontological research. The life-course perspective has become a model of aging.” (128:1995) Various studies have been directed at understanding aging from a cross-generational standpoint. The use of a multiple or cross-generational sample size has been used to study attitudes of old age homes in china (Tang et. al, 2009) and India (Lamb, 2009). Multi-generational studies have also been used to study perceptions of aging.
The challenges associated with a rapidly increasing aging population listed earlier have caused many in academia, along with the media, to approach aging in a negative light. “The language of gerontology is alarmist, almost apocalyptic.” (Cohen, 1998) We as a society and as researchers tend to see aging as a negative and, therefore, focus on and highlight the negative aspects of aging. This project hopes to understand what the perceptions of and experiences with aging are in Chavadi Pudur, India recognizing both the positive and negative. Through this study additional understanding of the perceptions and experience of the aging process cross-culturally and cross-generationally will be added to the current field of gerontology.
4. Description of Subjects
This study will take place over a 3 month time period in the village of Chavadi Pudur located in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Chavadi Pudur is a small rural village outside of the larger city of Coimbatore. Chavadi Pudur is a Tamil speaking village where the majority of the community follows the Hindu belief system. During the time period of June through mid-August participants will be selected based on convenience, third party, and snowball sampling. This study will include 10-15 informants from each of the three separate age groups totaling 30-45 participants. Participants will come from one of three generational age groups consisting of young adults age 18 years to 30 years, middle-aged adults age 35-55, and older adults over the age of 60. These age groupings were chosen based on previous multi-generational studies (Jamuna, 2007).
This sample set has been selected in order to gain an understanding of what the perceptions of aging are across generational groups within Chavadi Pudur. Ideally this sample will include an equal number of males and females. For the purpose of this study I will be focusing only on those individuals residing within Chavadi Pudur. The only other criteria will be that individuals are willing and able to be interviewed. In order to have a balanced representation of gender it will be important for me as a single young female to be culturally appropriate when approaching men for this study. I hope to work through this using third party recruitment. This will most likely be by having women that I have already interviewed introducing me to their husbands or fathers. The beginnings of the convenience sampling will come from introducing myself to neighbors and close associates during my first couple of weeks in the field. From these initial daily interactions I hope to broaden the scope of my sample population.
All participants in this study will be aware of and sign the informed consent document. This document will be transcribed into Tamil. In order to keep the confidentiality of all research participants there will be no names or identifying markers other than age and gender associated with interview collection. Outside of interview data names will be changed in all expanded field notes. All notes will be hand written and kept in a suitcase with a individual lock on the bag. This suitcase will be kept in my place of residence for the duration of the study. No other individuals will have access to primary data other than the PI. Primary data will be kept until December 2011.
6. Method or Procedures
This study will include two main forms of data collection. The first form of data collection will be through the use of semi-structured interviews. These interviews will be compiled of questions adapted from Palmer’s Ageism Quiz (Palmore,1999), and more general ethnographic questions. These questions will focus on understanding how an individual perceives of those that are aged, the aging process, and experiences with the aging process. Along with these semis-structured questions each participant will be asked to answer questions that follow a free listing format within the interview. A sample question in this format might include, “please list everything that you associate with being old.” All of the questions in the interview are designed to gain an understanding of the way that the individual perceives the aged and some of the experiences that they have had with those who they consider to be old. Within the sample size of 10-15 from each of the generational groups previously described each informant will participate in 1-2 of the previously described interviews. Interviews will have a total of 10-15 questions lasting between 30-45 minutes. (Full sample interviews can be found in Appendix F). At the end of the first interview participants may be asked to meet for a follow-up interview lasting an additional 30-45 minutes. This will be determined based on the information covered during the first interview.
It is important to note the limitations of this sample size and population. Due to time constraints in the field the sample size will be rather small. This population will also be limited to Chavadi Pudur and near by surrounding areas, which may greatly influence the way individuals among generations perceive of aging.
The second focus of data collection will include participant observation. Participant observation will consist of observing the daily activities and interactions of individuals. Particularly those focused around the oldest generation group. A significant amount of time will be spent around these individuals watching and participating in their daily activities. These daily activities may include household chores such as food preparation, worship, and family or community activities. During participant observations I hope to be as non-intrusive as possible. It will not be my intention to be the student watching on the side with a notebook, rather, that I will be an equal participant in many of these daily activities. My observations will be focused around the daily actions of the older generation and the interactions that they have with members of the other generational groups. These observations will add further qualitative data of the perceptions of aging to the data already collected during the interviews.
The methods of interviewing and observation will include a large amount of note taking. Daily jottings will be expanded to include observations, thoughts, insights and questions on everything from cultural inquiries to aspects of an aging population.
7. Data Analysis
Data Analysis will begin in the field as I write and code daily field notes. These notes will be coded for key themes and observations. These themes may include views on aging, roles of elderly, and the relationships between generational groups. Expanded notes from participant observations and daily activities will also be analyzed based on common themes. Common themes will come from interviews and field notes that will be coded using the same format throughout the research process. The use of qualitative text analysis will be used to code themes in notes and interviews. (Bernard, 2002)
Semi-structured interviews will be analyzed using the ANOVA system. This popular system for analysis will help show any significance among or across generational responses.
This research seems to present minimal risk to participants. The research will be completed through semi-structured interviews and participant observation. Potential risk may include some discomfort of individuals when talking about issues related to the aging process. In order to minimize any discomfort I will approach my questions as non-intrusively as possible. If I recognize that the individual may be uncomfortable or does not want to answer a question I will move on quickly. Most of these interviews will be done in the privacy of their own homes. There will also be a translator present that will not be related to the individual being interviewed. With the aid of a translator I hope to be able to pick up on any signs of discomfort that I might not otherwise recognize.
This study will focus on the perceptions and experiences of aging in Chavadi Pudur. While this study will have no direct benefits to the participants it will add to the knowledge and academic discussion on the perceptions of aging particularly in India. It may also add to the academic literature on generational studies of aging.
There will be no financial compensation for participating in this study. Compensation will take place as general appropriate reciprocity. This will be through time and volunteer services within the community. Small culturally appropriate gifts will also likely be given at the completion of the study to participants as a form of reciprocity for their time and knowledge.
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Bhat,A.K. & Dhruvarajan, R. (2001, Sep.). Ageing in India: Drifting intergenerational
relations, challenges and options. Ageing and Society, 21, pp.621-640.
Butler R. R, (1969). Age-ism: Another form of Bigotry. The Gerontologist, 9, 243-
Cohen, L. (1998). Aging in India: Alzheimer’s, the Bad Family, and Other Modern
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Dhillon, P. K. (1992). Psycho-Social Aspects of Aging in India. New Dehli.
Fowles, D.G. & Greenberg, S. (2010). A Profile of Older Americans:
2010 was developed by the Administration on Aging (AoA), U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from: http://www.aoa.gov/ (2011).
HELPAGE INDIA–RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT JOURNAL l VOL. 15 l NO. 3 l
OCTOBER 2009, http://www.helpageindia.org/index.php, 2011
Jamuna, D. & Ramamurti, P.V. (2007) Perceptions of Ageism Across the Generations.
Indian Journal of Gerontology, Vol. 21, No.2 pp 198-205.
Jones, R. (1977). The Other Generation: The New Power of Older People. New Jersey:
Keith, J. (1982). Old People As People: Social and Cultural Influences on Aging and
Old Age. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
Lamb, S. (2009). Aging and the Indian Diaspora: Cosmopolitan Families in India and
Abroad. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
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Prakash, I. J. (2007). Psychological Issues in Ageism and its Prevention. Indian Journal
of Gerontology, Vol.21, No.2.pp 206-215.
Sharna, K.L. (2007) Ageism in India. Indian Journal of Gerontology, Vol.21
Tang, C.S.,Wu, A.M.S., Yeung, D., Yan, E. (2009) Attitudes and Intention Toward Old
Age Home Placement: A study of young adult, Midle-Aged, and Older Chinese.
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I have had three previous field study experiences in studying aspects of the aging process. I received an undergraduate degree in Socio-cultural Anthropology in December 2007 along with a certificate in Gerontology in August 2010 both from Brigham Young University. Courses from these disciplines and past research experiences have allowed me to have a basic understanding and develop skills in qualitative research methods, topical knowledge of gerontology, and previous learning experiences of doing cross-cultural research. These qualifications will be added to greatly with the assistance of my faculty mentor Dr. Seipel in the School of Social Work. Dr. Seipel has carried out many qualitative research studies internationally and domestically. This experience will assist in creating a sound research design, collection, and analysis of data.
Appendix F-Sample Interview Questions
The following are a set of possible questions for this project. Many of these sample questions will be adjusted to fit the age of the individual being asked. Each interview will consist of 10 to 15 of these questions. They vary between semi-structured descriptive questions and simple true/false statements.
What is good or best about this stage of life?
What is hard or worst about this stage of life?
How would you define someone that is old?
Could you describe a typical day for you?
Could you describe a recent interaction that you had with a Mother/Father, Child?
Could you describe a recent activity that you did with a grandparent?
Could you tell me about an experience you have had with your grandparent/grandchild?
Can you give me an example of when you enjoyed/did not enjoy spending time with your grandmother/grandfather/, mother/father, Grandchild/child?
How would you describe the aging process?
Could you share an experience that you have had with the aging process?
I am sure that you have many friends around your age. Can you give an example of a time when someone treated them differently because of their age?
Could you describe an experience you have had where someone treated you differently because of your age?
When you think of someone that is old, how would you describe them?
Can you tell me everything you know about how someone that is aged 60 acts/is?
Could you describe an interaction that you have had with someone that is aged ?
Could you share with me an experience that you have had with members of the community since you stopped working at/in… or since your youngest child was married?
Could you describe a typical day for someone over the age of 60?
Can you describe/explain all the things that might make someone old?
Can you describe how someone that is old is treated by someone younger than them?
Could you tell me what the duties or responsibilities of someone who is over the age of 70 are?
What are the duties of someone in their mid 40’s, what about someone in their 20’s?
Could you give me an example of a time that you fulfilled this (…) duty or responsibility?
Can you give me an example of a time when someone you know did not do one of these duties or responsibilities?
True/False statements that may be used (Palmore, 1999).
The Majority of old people are senile (have defective memory, are disoriented, or
Older workers usually cannot work as effectively as younger workers.
The majority of old people are unable to adapt to change.
In general, older people tend to be pretty much alike.
Old people tend to become more religious as they age.
The majority of old people say they are seldom irritated or angry.
First Proposal Draft (outline) 2/19/11
Research Proposal Draft
The Lived Experience of Aging in Tamil Nadu, India: A Multi-Generational Study on the Perceptions and Experiences of Aging
1. Proposal Body Section:
a. Thesis/Purpose Statement (very rough draft)
The worlds aging population is rapidly increasing (exact data to be included later). This creates changes for individuals as well as within families, communities, and society. This increase will directly effect health care, economy, and social policy worldwide. In India the aged population is expected to reach ( ) by 2025. A rate higher than at any point in modern history. There are many aspects of aging that can and should be studied. This research will focus on a multi-generational understanding of the perceptions and experiences of aging in Tamil Nadu, India.
In order to further understand the aging process my design will be a multi faceted approach. I will be taking a phenomenological approach as well as >>>
b. Background and Significance- 1-2 pages
c. Review of Literature- 3-5+ pages
a. Entry into the community- I will be doing my field work in Chavadi Pudur a rural village in Tamil Nadu, India. I will be living with a host family that many groups of students have stayed with in the past. This has its benefits of familiarity of students that are coming to study. It can also have the negative stereotype of doing poor things that students have done in the past. This may effect people who are willing to work with me. While most of my project will take place working with individuals in their homes I will also spend time volunteering at a local development organization Shanti Ashram. I also hope to spend sometime in Coimbatore working with either an old age home, or with Helpage India.
b. Description of Informants- Informants for this project will be male and females within 3 major generational groups. These groups will be individuals between the ages of 18-25, 35-50, and over 65 years. They will most likely be longtime residents of Chavadi Pudur. They may also be members of other local communities. The ideal informant will be someone that has daily interactions with individuals from all generation groups.
c. Sampling and recruitment of informants- I will begin with convenient sampling. This will included talking to the individuals I live with and interact with on a daily basis throughout the community. These original informants may be people that I meet while volunteering at Shanti Ashram or while participating in daily activities within the community. From my convenient sample I hope to continue with snowball effect. Having them introduce me to their friends and the friends of their friends or neighbors.
d. Methodology- (appendixes with questions, survey)- At this point I want my focus to be on 3 separate generational groups’ perceptions and experiences of aging and the aged. Domain analysis activities, structured, semi structured, and unstructured interviewing for an appropriate sample size of 3 key age groupings 18-24, 35-50, 65. As of right now here is an outline of what my methods would look like for each generation.
65yr+ (also referred to as the old old, aged, and elderly)- I want to take a phenomenological approach to their experiences of aging. I would have 5-7 individuals that I am visiting multiple times. These visits would include a free listing activity, and several unstructured or semi-structured interviews. What has been their lived experience of aging?
35yr-50yr- I am thinking that I want to do at least 20 individuals from this age group. (My main concern is that this is not enough to be a significant sample size, and at the same time more than I will be capable of doing when combined with the other two age groups). With these individuals I am thinking that I will do a free listing activity and one semi-structured interview or maybe a 5-10 question structured interview.
18yr-24yr- This age grouping will also have at least 20 individuals. I will do the same free listing or interviewing with them that I do with the middle age group.
e. Barriers/limitations- There is a lot of work that I want to get done. There are almost as many barriers. Beyond the obvious need to find informants and be able to ask appropriate questions several key barriers include having enough time to interview 50 individuals 10 of which will be in-depth multiple interviews. The other major barrier is the 3 month time strain and language barrier to name a few.
a. maintain confidentiality
b. informed consent
c. minimize risks, Maximize benefit
f. Post-field application/conclusion?
h. Qualifications of Faculty
i. In-field coursework