The life trajectory of elderly institutionalized Holocaust survivors : an ethnographic study / by Diane Marion Pirner
Includes bibliographical references (p. 210-226)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
During the last decade several research projects have provided increasing evidence to support the assumption that historical events such as wars can and do have both a profound and a sustained impact on the ways in which individuals respond to, and cope with the numerous and often cumulative challenges that arise during the final decades of life. Debate continues among gerontologists not only about the effects of trauma at a young age on the well-being of these individuals once they are older (i.e. 65 and over), but also how such outcomes may vary between various cultural groups. The purpose of this descriptive study was to gain insights into one aspect of this debate by conducting a series of participant observation sessions and a series of in depth interviews with eight Holocaust survivors who were now living in retirement home. The three objectives of the study were to gain: (1) insights into the pattern of events experienced by Holocaust survivors within defined epochs of their life; (2) insights into the pattern of cultural beliefs, values, attitudes and meanings that are attributed to the above mentioned events by Holocaust survivors who are living in a retirement home. This knowledge should afford a greater understanding of the often quoted concept of "survivorship" as well as the coping patterns of the survivors; and (3) knowledge about strategies that will assist in the development of more culturally sensitive nursing care for this (Holocaust survivor) elderly population. A number of unique findings (themes) were discovered in the stories provided by the eight participants in this ethnographic study of the life trajectory of Holocaust survivors. One central finding was that most of the participants experienced similar life events for these three epochs. Furthermore, although these survivors were from diverse countries (e.g., Poland, Romania, and Hungary), there was considerable similarity in their cultural perspectives: that is, in their beliefs, values, and attitudes about the various happenings, as indicated by the meanings that they attributed to the events that contributed to their survivorship and their ability to cope throughout their life, particularly the impact on their coping style during the current retirement home phase of their life trajectory. Throughout all of their accounts there were indicators that researchers variously refer to as hardiness or resilience. That is, they articulated a personal philosophy that was characterized by hope, trust, and facilitative beliefs. Furthermore, they emphasized the need for engagement in meaningful activities and the importance of family and social support system such as friendships.
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