The cultural context of “successful aging” among older women weavers in a northern Okinawan village: The role of productive activity.
Basho-fu (Musa liukiuensis) weaving has long been part of the cultural identity of Ogimi villagers and has continued in the village as a cottage industry despite its almost complete disappearance throughout the rest of the Ryukyu archipelago. It has survived largely due to the concerted efforts of a few villagers and is now carried on mainly by middle-aged and older women. Almost every elderly woman in Ogimi has at least some experience in basho-fu weaving, and most still participate in some stage of the production process. Aged women form the bulk of the core group of workers that carries out the labor-intensive u-umi (spooling) and u-biki (fiber-cleaning) activities. Without this core group of elderly women, the whole production process would be in jeopardy. Thus, older women in Ogimi play a key role as valued workers in maintaining the basho-fu production process. In exchange for their continued participation, these elderly women receive symbolic capital in the form of respect and honors, as well as wages for their labor. We argue that participating in traditional basho-fu weaving helps these older women maintain an active engagement with life as healthy and productive members of society, a role that has been culturally sanctioned and has taken on moral import in Japan’s rapidly aging society. Interestingly, “doing basho” may be considered one means to help achieve successful aging in this particular cultural context.
Willcox, D.C., Willcox, B.J., Sokolovsky, J. & Sakihara, S. (2007). The cultural context of “successful aging” among older women weavers in a northern Okinawan village: The role of productive activity. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 22, 137-165. doi: 10.1007/s10823-006-9032-0
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