Souls of life: Looking at the role of older people in maintaining and protecting African culture

Stephen R Kodwo, Virginia Commonwealth University

After the United Nations World Assembly on Aging conference, which discussed the worlds’ aging population, African countries joined an already raging debate about the impact of aging population on national resources. This paper explores the significance of older people, using as reference, their participation in marriage and funeral celebrations among the Akans of Ghana. The author discusses who older people are, and identifies two sources of their authority: respect for old-age, wisdom, and customs; and belief in supernatural entities. The author argues that through their roles in marriage and funeral ceremonies, older people provide opportunities for their communities to learn about societal norms and values that are crucial for building healthy and just societies. This paper suggests that older people be viewed in the light of their positive contributions, rather than emphasizing the costs of demographic change to society. The implications of these for public policy and research are discussed.

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Presented in Poster Session 3