Social Positioning of the Elderly over Time in Rural South Africa: Change or Stability?

Sangeetha Madhavan, University of Maryland
Enid Schatz, University of Missouri, Columbia
Mark Collinson, University of the Witwatersrand

Most aging research uses a static conceptualization of older persons as “dependent” due to labor force withdrawal and increasing physical frailty. The convergence of a number of factors – access to pension, unemployment, complex health transition, and increasing life expectancy – in the South African context challenges this model because older persons must fulfill productive roles. Household living arrangements offer a lens for exploring how families respond to life course events. Using data from the Agincourt Health and Demographic Surveillance System, we (1) describe the extent of change in older persons’ living arrangements in two time periods; (2) calculate transition probabilities of moving from one living arrangement to another; and (3) identify possible drivers of change. Preliminary findings suggest that older persons experience stability in living arrangements particularly amongst those who start out in arrangements that suggest productive roles; when movement occurs, it is also most likely into productive roles.

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Presented in Session 193: Aging and Health Care in Low and Middle Income Countries