Cooking did not seem to be her passion, but she did like to help out her children because 'you young people are so busy nowadays.' She said she preferred to eat in the middle of the day, which seemed to help with her digestion, and only ate sparsely at night.
On Sundays, when she did not see her children, she often dined with some of her neighborhood friends, mostly Italian-American women who were also widows, and also occasionally with some friends from the town, people she had met from back when her children were in school, at the hairdressers, and so forth. While not an immigrant per se, Mrs. N -- was strongly identified with the Italian-American community most of her life, and it has been observed that the support of a community, and mingling with ethnic "cohorts" can ease the developmental transition into old age, defined as "1) letting go of the children, (2) retirement, (3) grandparenthood, (4) loss of siblings and peers through death, and (5) declining physical health and anticipation of death" (Akhtar & Choi 20004:183).
She used to own several dogs that she walked regularly in the evening, after the shop closed. She continued to keep dogs and to maintain her own property until she lost mobility her left hip. Before the interview, it was notable that she walked with a walker. However, this was not due to the natural process of aging, but the fact that when visiting one of her daughters, while getting out of a taxi, the cab pulled away before she had alighted, pulling her for several feet. She had never been able to walk normally since, and said that the accident had substantially shaken her confidence, and harmed the quality of her life. She was no longer able to have dogs or take care of her own property. Now she had a 'woman' come to the house once a week to help her with cleaning and a gardener for the exterior of her property, which she had never indulged in before. Only because of her strong confidence and belief in her past accomplishments was she able to maintain a strong sense of self.Her health insurance felt that her rehabilitation was complete, and she had elected not to prosecute the cab driver, although she expressed bitterness that a freak accident and the driver's inconsideration, rather than her decrepitude now limited her lifestyle.
Mrs. N -- defied a number of stereotypes about the elderly during the interview, and also one research study which noted: "Gerontologists have long noted that people tend to disassociate themselves from the category of being old" (Jones 2006: 79). Mrs. N -- did refer to herself as old, saying that she had experienced a loss, mainly because of her accident, and she blamed herself to some degree for the accident, saying that if she had been as sharp as she had been in her youth she would never have been caught by surprise. However, her refusal to go to an assisted living community because she did not want to only be around old people all of the time, or told when to eat and sleep -- 'being around a mix of old and young, children and people my age is natural, which you don't get in one of those senior places' -- did show some defiance of the aging process. Overall, while her positive memories and portrayal of her struggles as a young woman could be read as a positivity bias, typical of older adults who want or need to remember the past as 'better' or fulfilling when gazing upon the next life stage, Mrs. N -- seemed to have a strongly realistic yet positive view of the world and her future years as an 'older person' that might be comforting to many people facing old age (Quinn, Mather, & Carstensen 2004:208)
Akhtar, Salman & Lois Wonsun Choi. (2004). When evening falls: The immigrant's encounter with middle and old age. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 64(2), 183-191. Retrieved April 18, 2008, from ProQuest Medical Library database. (Document ID: 642260381).
Jones, Rebecca L. (2006). 'Older people' talking as if they are not older people:
Positioning theory as an explanation. Journal of Aging Studies, 20(1), 79-91. Retrieved April 18, 2008, from ProQuest Information and Learning, Ann Arbor, Mi. Accessed April 18, 2008, Document ID: 1037872581
Kennedy, Quinn, Mara Mather, & Laura L. Carstensen. (2004). The role of motivation in the age-related positivity effect…