An exploration of the relationship experiences of older black women : applying the Mmogo–methodTM
Mabunda, Mavhayisi Victor
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Relationships are important for older black people in their endeavours to understand the world. The relationships of older black people have, however, undergone many changes. This article attempts to explore the relational experiences of older black women using the MmogomethodTM as a projective technique to obtain insight into the meanings they attach to the changed relations. The Mmogo–methodTM (Roos, 2008; 2011) is a culturally sensitive research tool. Eight Swazi–speaking women from eMalahleni in Mpumalanga, South Africa, with ages ranging from 68 to 88, participated in the research. The research participants were asked to create visual representations using malleable clay, beads and dry grass stalks to illustrate aspects of their experiences of relationships with those around them. They then took part in focus group discussions. Thematic content analysis was used to analyse the data. The findings revealed that the older women in the study contributed to relationships by providing financial support and by taking care of their families and extended families. They provided financial support by using their government grants to look after their households. In turn, they received selective physical, emotional and spiritual support. The research revealed that the older women generally identified one particular person with whom they established a close relationship. They felt understood in this relationship, which they described as comforting because their needs were perceived and met by the particular person. The older women also emphasised the emotional support they received from the community, which came mainly from people of the same age thus giving them the opportunity to share information and experiences with their peers while taking part in various activities and while relaxing. Spiritual support was also a key factor in the relationships among the older people - they could, for example, share their experiences of life with fellow church members, and church members also looked after and supported each other in times of illness. The relational challenges experienced by the older black women were a lack of protection, a lack of help and support in taking care of their houses, the absence of men, changed norms and values, and the loss of relationships. The older women said that they felt overwhelmed and stressed by these challenges. They also felt estranged from intergenerational relationships, which were traditionally regarded as a potential sources of support and care for older persons. They also did not know how to approach the relationships differently because the familiar norms and values that had guided intergenerational relationships had changed. The older women in the study said that they had felt cared for and safe in previous intergenerational relationships. They longed for the past when, in their view, clear norms and values guided relational interactions. They felt stressed and overwhelmed by the absence of men in their traditional roles as providers. Contemporary men also did not fulfil their duties when compared with men in the old days. The Mmogo–methodTM which was applied as a projective technique, revealed the meanings the older black women attached to relationships in their lives. As part of a cross–cultural, intergenerational research project, this method gave valuable insight into how older black women perceive their contributions and the challenges related to their relationships.
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