Young adult males' experiences of relationships with older persons in an economically deprived community in the North West Province
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This article describes how young adult males experience relationships with older people in an economically deprived community. Intergenerational relations refer to the relationship between people who are either familially or non-familially related. Intergenerational relationships are important for communities in promoting connectedness, closeness and togetherness, which contribute to the well-being of all members. The relationships between generations are informed by the values and beliefs that underpin their interactions. Values and beliefs that guided intergenerational relations in this community in the past were that older people were regarded as the custodians of heritage, knowledge and wisdom, which they are expected to pass down to younger generations. Reciprocally, the younger generation was expected to take care of the older generation when they could not care for themselves. It is not clear, however, how young adult males in Africa experience their relationships with older people at the moment. An inductive, explorative approach was adopted to conduct this qualitative study. The research was conducted in Khuma, a township of Stilfontein in the North West Province of South Africa. The community is regarded as economically vulnerable community. Eleven male participants, aged between 18 and 35 years, participated in the research. Data were obtained by means of the Mmogo-method® (Roos, 2008; 2012), a visual data gathering method and group discussions about themuntil data saturation was achieved. The Mmogo-method® is a projective, qualitative data-gathering instrument which involves participants in the visual construction of their subjective and often subconscious experiences by using different materials (Roos, 2012). Participants in this research were asked to make visual representations based on the following open-ended instruction: “Use the materials provided to tell us about your experiences of your relationships with the older people in your community”. On completion, participants were asked to explain what they had done and why they had made specific objects so that the deeper meanings of their representations could be elicited. Their responses were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. Ambivalence emerged as a predominant theme. Ambivalence refers to simultaneous, contradictory emotions towards older people and what they represent. One the one hand, the young people expressed appreciation for the way in which older persons cared for them physically and emotionally; and on the other hand, these young adults expressed feelings of dissatisfaction and hurt in relation to older persons. Ambivalence was also expressed in terms of traditional agriculatural practices. They realized the importance of being knowledgeable about traditional agricultural practices and customs as part of their heritage; but they were also negative and showed a disregard for traditional customs in the face of the realities of poor economic conditions, unemployment, HIV/AIDS and socio-political changes in? terms of their economic realities and they described conformity with traditional intergenerational arrangements of relationships. Ambivalence was also expressed in terms of terms of the way in which relationships were arranged. There as an acceptance of the leading position of older persons with the younger people in a following position, but they also expressed a need to negotiate different rules for engagement. The relational experiences of the young adult males are embedded in their financial situation. Young males who find themselves trapped in financially dependent relationships with older persons do not have much bargaining power. They find themselves in a position where, even if they want to challenge the traditional arrangement of intergenerational relations, they are bound to norms and values associated with their past and heritage. The question needs to be answered: What is the older generation‟s perspective on the possibility of renegotiation of the norms and values that guide intergenerational relations? This question is important for promoting social cohesion, particularly in economically deprived communities. It is recommended that a community-based intervention be developed to create awareness of the strengths of both generations. Enabling interpersonal space can assist generations to adopt a flexible attitude in the face of changing views of intergenerational relationships.
- Health Sciences