Independence is a socially constructed concept within a capitalistic patriarchal society that serves to marginalize and oppress the elderly members of the society. Why do many women of the elderly population within the United States live alone? What is it about our society that has encouraged the elderly population to live alone and without the vital familial support that is so often necessary for people who are reaching their golden years? Elderly people in the United States are one of the most vulnerable groups of people who have traditionally been marginalized. They are viewed as weak individuals because they are no longer able to physically work for pay. Many of them choose to live alone yet suffer in isolation because of the lie they have been sold. According to the symbolic interactionist theory, if independence is the ultimate reward for a lifetime of achievement, surely remaining independent and alone is preferable to living with loved ones. The elderly person does not want his or her social networks to believe the elderly person is weak. Isolation is preferable to dependency and being a burden upon another individual or family.
We have been socialized to believe that caring for an elderly relative or person is a burden. The term “burden,” which is used by many elderly members of society, further advances the notion that to care for others, even others in one’s family causes undo stress upon the caregivers. If a person is a burden on somebody, then they cannot be successfully achieving goals. The concept of achievement is represented by striving towards the American dream. Independence is an indirect reward of a lifetime of working towards the status that has been dictated as normal to us by our culture...
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