Date of Award

1974

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Sociology

Supervisor

V. W. Marshall

Language

English

Abstract

This thesis is to a large degree an ethnology. The focus of the endeavour is a collection of poor old men in Lake City. l wanted to first of all discover who some of the old poor people were. Once this was accomplished, my concern was with a series of questions about themselves and their everyday life.

On searching both the gerontological and poverty literature, l have found there to be little existing material relating to the situation of the very poor aged. Throughout the thesis l have used the literature to support my case, and as well, by pointing out it's narrow scope have placed my work in contrast to it.

Insofar as l had to first find my desired respondents, and then observe as well as talk with them, l have used a participant observation methodology to collect data. The study has been divided into four sections which can be characterized as: setting the scene, discovering the origins of the men , describing their contemporary situation, and the conclusions.

In the process of setting the scene , l found their everyday activity to be limited to sitting in their room, a public park, or a public room. Where they do their sitting depends, to a large degree, on the weather at any given moment.

The background of these old men has its roots in the depression years when many of them were hobos. While some of the men worked steadily subsequent to the "Dirty Thirties", many did not, and have been on and off pensions of various sorts for a number of years.

A little less than 50% of the men have ever been married, and not one of them presently enjoys a significant relationship with a women. They do not see their estranged wives, and rarely visit with children. Unlike many aged people who develop new friendships in old age after the loss of work and or marriage roles, these men have had the same friends for many years. They are now though, losing friends and therefore increasingly depend on neighbours to also be their friends. I should emphasize that they never have had a lot of friends to lost, and so are alone in their rooms for much of the time.

These rooms are single rented ones in old rundown roominghouses. The poverty of their residence is coupled with poor dress and diet. They wear old, worn, second-hand clothes, and eat a lot of canned starchy foods and day old pastry. Medical attention is only sought when they can no longer function well enough to look after everyday needs.

The men are also hesitant about using the other service facilities, administered by charitable organizations on skid row, because of the exchange relationship which exists between owner and client. A large number of the men feel the cost of a service like a mission meal for instance, is too high when they are compelled to attend a religious service prior to eating. Many of them respond by avoiding that facility whenever possible. In investigating these services I have also studied an institutional residence for poor old men. I found that while the physical facilities are for the most part good, the social life possibilities have been largely neglected.

The connection between the present circumstances of the men, and their past work and social careers is a direct one. Studies need to be undertaken to more fully reveal how this population fits into Canadian social structure.

McMaster University Library

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