The Experience of Old Age in West Sumatra, Indonesia: Culture Shift and Cultural Consonance in the Modern Era

By Rebecca Fanany, Ismet Fanany and Rafsel Tasady.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The past four decades have seen enormous social change in Indonesia as the nation continues to experience rapid urbanization and social pressures in the globalized economy that have led to tensions between traditional cultures and the modern mainstream around the nation. This cultural shift has been felt strongly in West Sumatra, a region of Indonesia inhabited almost entirely by members of the matrilineal Minangkabau ethnic group. While the traditional social values of the area remain strong, they are eroding, and the Minang are becoming more like other Indonesians in terms of their family structure, occupations, and lifestyle. This has had a significant impact on the experience of old age as social and culture change has affected the traditional matrilineal structures that supported and ensured care for the elderly in past generations. This paper will describe the ways in which traditional institutions accommodated older individuals and describe how these systems have changed in the present day. Case studies across generations will be presented to illustrate the ways in which traditional matrilineal social structures are, and have been, perceived in the context of aging. Further, the paper will describe what this means for the elderly and their families in terms of cultural consonance in today’s society, and discussion will focus on the changing experience of old age in a society in transition against a backdrop of rapid urbanization and modernization.

Keywords: Culture, West Sumatra, Social Change, Cultural Consonance

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.51-59. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 458.578KB).

Dr. Rebecca Fanany

Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dr Rebecca Fanany is a senior lecturer in the school of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University. Her expertise is in the area of language and culture and health, and she has extensive research experience in Indonesia and the Malay world. She is the author of many articles, books, and papers on these and related topics. Her most book is entitled Health as a Social Experience (2012).

Dr. Ismet Fanany

Associate Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Ismet Fanany is an associate professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences as well as head of the Indonesian Language Program. His research interests center on social and culture change and development issues in Indoensia and the Malay world, and he has many years of experience working in these areas. He is the author of many books, article, and papers on a range of topics, most recently a co-edited volume on post-disaster reconstruction in Aceh, Indoensia.

Rafsel Tasady

Lecturer, Sekolah Tinggi Agama Islam Negeri, Batusangkar, West Sumatra, Indonesia

Rafsel Tasady is a lecturer in counseling at STAIN Batusangkar (State Islamic College, Batrusangkar. She has a greatd eal of experience working with the local community on issues relating to youth problems and the educational experience. She is an experienced field researcher with interests in the areas of health, religion, and education.