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Age Group Rural Brahmin t Urban Brahmin
(in years) Females value Females
N Mean+S.D N Mean+S.D
40-45 75 20.92+4.56 0.33 70 21.20+5.60
46-50 75 19.26+4.22 1.05 70 20.08+5.06
51-55 75 16.33+4.03 2.39** 70 16.82+4.88
56-60 75 13.54+5.01 0.34 70 14.74+3.04
61-65 75 12.84+5.48 1.59 70 13.45+3.54
66-70 75 10.08+4.42 0.23 70 11.08+3.83
Table 2 shows mean and s.d. values of grip strength for left hand. The value for left hand rural females dropped from 18.13 kg at age group 40-45 to 9.00 kg at age group 66-70, resulting in the net loss of 9.13 kg over 20 years, whereas for urban females it was 18.67 kg at age group 40-45 and show a decline by 8.76 kg to reach the minimum value of 9.91 kg at the age group 66-70. Mean values for left hand have been found to be statistically non-significantly higher in urban females than their rural counterparts. Magnitude of loss for left hand was more among rural females (50.35 %) than urban females (46.92%).
Table 2 : Grip strength (kg) of left hand against different age groups in rural and urban Brahmin females.
Age Group Rural Brahmin t Urban Brahmin
(in years) Females value Females
N Mean+S.D N Mean+S.D
40-45 75 18.13+4.90 0.66 70 18.67+4.85
46-50 75 17.14+4.65 0.29 70 17.38+5.35
51-55 75 13.00+3.87 1.64 70 15.05+3.92
56-60 75 10.22+3.56 0.78 70 12.65+3.15
61-65 75 9.65+4.17 1.26 70 10.85+4.11
66-70 75 9.00+4.68 1.24 70 9.91+3.90
Grip strength is measured as an indicator of muscular strength in the upper limb. In the present study, both the rural as well as urban Brahmin females show an age related decline in grip strength. This is in accordance with the findings of previous studies, reporting a trend of decline in grip strength with advancing age (Rantanen et al., 1994; Joycee and Kapoor, 1995; Singal et al., 1999; Samson et al., 2000; Chilima and Ismail ,2001; Frederiksen et al., 2005; Forrest et al., 2007). Rantanen et al. (1994) and Brown et al. (1995) noticed that the diminished functioning in sensorimotor system in old people can be a limiting factor in the maintenance of an independent life style and can increase the risk of fall and fracture. These findings clearly depict that the aging process is associated with progressive declines in muscle strength, resulting in functional disability and reduces quality of life (Forrest et al., 2007) .
Rural and urban Brahmin females in the present study shows that grip strength of right hand is greater than left hand, which is also supported by earlier studies (Bagga, 1997). This may probably be because the right hand is more active over left hand. Kamarul et al. (2006) also reported that hand grip strength is significantly correlated with hand dominance. Urban Brahmin females exhibit higher mean values of grip strength (both right and left hand) than rural Brahmin females. Similar findings are reported by Hussain (1997) showing greater grip strength of urban Kunbi females than their rural counterparts. This is contrary to the findings of Singal et al. (1999) who reported rural Jat Sikh females have more grip strength than urban Jat sikh females at most of the age groups. So the lower grip strength (both right and left hand) of rural females than their urban counterparts may be attributed to poor nutrition leading to the decline in muscular strength. This is in an agreement with the findings that poor nutritional status is associated with poor hand grip strength (Guo et al., 1996 and Chilima and Ismail, 2001). Cauley et al. (1987) found that the reduction in physical activity with age may contribute to strength decline .
Table 3 reveals the comparison of Brahmin females (present study) for grip strength with maharashtrian Brahmin and migrant (Punjabi & Sindhi) women (Bagga, 1997) and rural and urban Kunbi females (Hussain 1997). Rural and urban Brahmin females show lower grip strength (right and left hand) than the rural and urban Kunbi females at all ages except at age group 40-50 years (Fig. 1 & 2). Rural and urban Brahmin females when compared with maharastrian Brahmin females and migrant (Punjabi & Sindhi) women show higher value (right & left hand) at all ages except at 40-50 years. Table 4 shows t-values.
The results calculated from table 3 confirm the previously reported grip strength loss with increasing age. Carmeli et al. (2003) observed that deterioration of hand function in elderly adults is a combination of local structural changes ( joints , muscle, tendon, bone, nerve and receptors, blood supply, skin and fingernails) and more distant changes in neural control. These changes are often accompanied by underlying pathological conditions (osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatic arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease) that are common in elderly population. Hence, understanding these change in muscle strength and functional mobility with age is becoming more important because of longer life expectancy and an increasing elderly population (Wolfson et al., 1993).
Table 3 : Comparison of right and left hand grip strength of rural and urban Brahmin females with rural and urban Kunbi, Maharashtrian Brahmin and migrants.
Age Group Rural Urban Rural Urban Maharashtrian Migrant
(in years) Brahmin Brahmin Kunbi Kunbi Brahmin (Punjabi & Sindhi)
40-50 Right 20.094.49 20.645.39 19.844.09 20.245.19 18.334.62 18.003.39
Left 17.634.82 18.025.17 20.613.79 19.965.16 17.634.35 15.803.19
51-60 Right 14.934.77 15.784.21 16.934.02 17.214.45 17.434.57 18.331.15
Left 11.613.98 13.853.77 17.043.72 17.074.31 16.234.81 15.005.00
61-70 Right 11.465.18 12.263.89 13.563.47 14.793.47 16.144.45 12.571.90
Left 9.324.46 10.384.05 13.732.73 13.973.45 14.974.31 10.714.46
Table 4 : t-values for the right and left hand grip strength of rural and urban Brahmin females with rural and urban Kunbi, Maharashtrian Brahmin and migrants.
Age Rural Urban Rural Urban Rural Urban Rural Urban Group vs Rural vs Rural vs Urban vs Urban vs Maharashtrian vs Maharashtrian vs Migrant vs Migrant
(in years) Kunbi Kunbi Kunbi Kunbi
40-50 Right 0.39 1.08 -0.21 0.51 1.93 2.16* 2.40** 2.56**
Left -4.53*** -1.88 -3.35*** -2.26* -2.62** -1.90 -4.16*** -3.52***
51-60 Right -3.02*** -2.27** -4.77*** -4.50*** -4.90*** -5.09*** -1.15 -0.42
Left -9.56*** -3.70*** -3.24*** -2.55** 0 0.38 1.98* 2.24*
61-70 Right -2.95*** -5.77*** -9.17*** -5.52*** -5.56*** -2.95*** -4.27*** -1.49
Left -7.30*** -5.98*** -7.53*** -6.21*** -6.74*** -5.88*** -1.55 -0.39
p<0.05*; p<0.02**; p<0.01, .001***
Figure 1 : Comparison of grip strength (right hand) of rural and urban Brahmin females with rural urban Kunbi, Maharashtrian Brahmin and Migrant females.
Figure 2 : Comparison of grip strength (left hand) of rural and urban Brahmin females with rural and urban Kunbi, Maharashtrian Brahmin and Migrant females
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Forrest, K.Y., Zmuda, J.M. and Cauley, J.A. (2007). Patterns and correlates of muscle strength loss in older women. Gerontology 53 : 140-147.
Frederiksen, H., Hjelmborg, J. ,Mortensen, J., McGue, M., Vaupel, J.W., and Christensen, K. (2005). Age trajectories of grip strength : Cross-sectional and longitudinal data among 8,342 Danes aged 46 to 102. Ageing Male 8 : 151-6.
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Indian Journal of Gerontology
2008, Vol. 22, No. 1. pp 62-72
Case Study of Productive Ageing among the Rural Women
Socio-economic Research Institute
Mohana, Flat # 7, 5 New Raipur, Garia
Kolkata – 700 084
It is usually held that ageing for women in rural areas brings with it insecurity and utmost dependency. Gerontological literature replete with the evidence that elderly women are the most vulnerable group among the aged. More often than not they are subject to different kinds of elder abuse mainly because of their relatively less involvement in-productive process. This seems to be an erroneous notion for, it is widely known that women never retire. In rural areas they are regarded as an asset to the family as a productive group. This paper makes a case study of some elderly women belonging to several villages of the districts of 24 Parganas(s), Hooghly, Howrah and Purulia in West Bengal to examine the role these women play in productive processes in their respective households and society. The study further examines the variation, if any, in the nature of involvement in productive activities by age and seeks to find out the reasons behind differential participations. The study revealed that ageing for many a rural woman is neither a curse nor a blessing. It hardly frightens them for, some women earnestly desire to undertake role reversal. They are not a liability to the family but certainly a human assets who also help ushering social change.
Key words : Productive ageing, Elder abuse, Human asset, Social change, Role reversal
The “grey cloud” on the horizon to-day – the rapidly ageing population feared by the “doom and gloom” – has several linings that have too long gone unnoticed, under appreciated and under utilized. One of these is the contribution of voluntary work by older persons, those who choose and who are able to remain active and productive member of society. Volunteering by older persons is a singular and particularly valuable mode of “productive ageing”, because their contribution is the gift of life experience, skill, wisdom and human warmth to other generation.
There is a great deal of literature on the subject of ageing but much of it does a disservice to older persons and to their societies ; it neglects or addresses only in passing, the changing ways that older people engage in society. Short shrift is given to the wealth of knowledge, expertise, skill and wisdom that is available to educate and inform younger generation. And this lack of attention does nothing to support the development of policies that would encourage and facilitate the fullest participation of older people in family, neighborhood and society.
One of the most crucial issues that social planners and policy makers are confronted with is their inadequate knowledge about what to do with our first growing elderly persons who are having much higher longevity now than ever before. The joint family, long thought of answering to this question is neither as held out to be widespread, nor does it seen capable enough to accommodate the pressures exerted by the demands of a modern industrialized, westernized and globalized life style. We know that far worse is the expression of social neglect, abuse and societal carelessness giving rise to the feeling of emotional isolation, loneliness, depression and a sense of alienation among the aged. Even at the risk of repeatation it can be mentioned that how the rural aged women living in both economically backward region as well as relatively advanced areas are facing the brunt of enormous socio-economic and psychological stress.
Ageing for women in rural areas, brings with it dependence, insecurity, failing health, and loss of control over one’s life. In an inadequate social security system of rural India, where poverty, unemployment, decreasing land-man ratio, malnutrition and population explosion are quite rampant, aged women constitute a vulnerable group which is often subjected to insult, injury, exploitation, inequality, injustice and multiple morbidity. In a socio-cultural milieu, which is, by and large, hierarchical and strictly patriarchal, majority of women are rarely educated, victims of child marriage, not encouraged to take up employment and their public participation is strictly limited, there is a growing number who face a situation of “triple jeopardy’ that of being old, female and poor” (Prakash, 1996).
Majority of the older women are dependent on others economically as they are not gainfully employed. We are yet to have a comprehensive social security system to cover all the needy women in rural area. “For, 74% women spend their lives without a spouse, 75% older women suffer from at least one chronic disease. Majority of them live with children and the quality of their life solely depends on the sentiments, resources and inclination of their careers” (Kumar, 1996). The inter-personal relationships with their sons and daughters-in-law also are becoming increasingly brittle (Chakrabarti, 1995). It is against this background that this present exercise has been made to know how far promoting methods of productive ageing can be of any help for the rural elderly women in gaining a sense of self-worth, social respectability, economic security and a sense of holistic well being. The term “Productive ageing” covers three major aspects : Physical, Economic and Social. The physical aspect focuses on healthy mind and healthy body, emotional and spiritual well-being. The economic aspect deals with commercial, business, monitory benefits, gainful employment suitable to age, health and local habitat. The social aspect involves participation in family’s and community’s, activities – to the satisfaction and advantage for herself and society (Kumar, 1996). This paper makes an attempt to present five case studies of elderly women living in different villages in 24 Parganas (S), Hooghly, Howrah and Purulia districts for examining their involvement in productive processes.
The study has the following objectives :
1. To examine the variation, if any, in the nature of involvement in productive ageing by age of the selected women belonging to different socio-economic backgrounds of the 5 villages in different districts of West Bengal.
2. To extract the reasons for differences, if any, in the extent of participation in productive ageing by the rural elderly women under examination, and
3. To analyze the role played by family, neighborhood and community in motivating the elderly women to take part in physical economic and socio-cultural aspects of productive ageing.
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