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Ethnic elders’ narratives and responses to culture tales : a study of culture and reminiscence Stewart, Katherine Glenna


This qualitative study of older adults of differing ethnocultural backgrounds explored the influence of culture on reminiscence. Specifically, the study examined the ways in which participants constructed their reminiscences by examining how culture is expressed in reminiscence and how each elder responds to a story specific to his or her culture. The research design of narrative analysis was chosen for its suitability to studying personal meaning in stories such as those told in reminiscence. The method of narrative analysis used was the construction of an Adequate Paraphrase (AP) because it allowed the analyst to extract the essence of a story from the structure of narrative text, and to see the connection between this essence and cultural meaning. Original interviews were obtained from four individuals and secondary analysis was performed on transcripts obtained from three pilot study participants. Several key findings were discovered. First, an elder can express the fluid and reciprocal relationship between culture and identity in reminiscing on his or her life. Second, AP interpretations offer only a partial understanding of an elder's reminiscence, possibly in relation to varying levels of representation of narrative. Third, the purpose of construction of a particular reminiscence appears to be to direct the use of structural devices in order to present the reminiscer as one who has acted reasonably and congruently with his or her values. Insights on cultural expression in reminiscence were discussed and used to propose a tentative outline of reminiscence construction involving content, structure, purpose and formulation. Each of these aspects appears to relate to particular theoretical perspectives on reminiscence. Thus, while no single perspective accounts for all of reminiscence construction, certain perspectives may be more applicable to certain aspects of construction. A key implication of this study is that by engaging diverse elders in reminiscence, one may promote identity integration, search for life meaning, understanding of meaning in context, accessing memory and communicating meaning. In turn, such engagement in reminiscence may promote quality health care in the face of diversity.

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