Ageing International

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 504–521 | Cite as

Aging Across Worlds: Examining Intergenerational Relationships Among Older Adults in two Cities in Transition



The successful aging model marked by an emphasis on the self has dominated the gerontological tradition in a majority of the western industrialized countries. However, this narrative of active, socially engaged and consumer centric aging is not a contextually homogenized process as experienced by older adults elsewhere, where a “meaningful decline” defines older adults’ renegotiation with familial relationships, expectations, religion and death. Borrowing social-psychological and gerontological perspectives the current study examined the co-existence of these two contrary models-disengagement and successful aging- in two cities that are in transition Ahmedabad (Gujarat, India) and Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada). Drawing from in-depth interviews this study examined intergenerational relationships and expectations around filial ties, emotional bonds, network ties, cultural ideologies and their contribution in forging the aging identity in these two contexts among older Indians in Ahmedabad and those in the transnational setting. Findings suggest that despite the Asian traditional values and expectations surrounding caregiving and support from adult children older Indians in Saskatoon have reconfigured their expectations and are re-negotiating between the two cultural worlds by embracing the successful aging model. In contrast, a structured dependency in terms of economic support and psychological needs is preserved, legitimized and nurtured in the older adult-adult children relationship in Ahmedabad where older parents contribute to household and grandparenting duties while expecting caregiving, support and respect in exchange. By adopting a comparative perspective, the study demonstrates how everyday life of older adults is constructed, lived and produced and role of cultural forces shaping the experience of growing old.


Aging Ambivalence Disengagement Intergenerational Relationships Meaning Successful aging 



The author acknowledges the sample selection guidance provided by the research staff of Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR), Ahmedabad, for the India part of the study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Since this is a single authored manuscript, the author holds no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Ethical Treatment of Experimental Subjects (Animal and Human)

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


For the purpose of data collection in Saskatoon, the author had received a travel grant from the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) Grant No: DAC/83/2014-ICS. Additionally the author’s accommodation and lodging expenses were covered by the University of Saskatchewan.


  1. Agarwal, B. (1998). Widows versus daughters or widows as daughters? property, land, and economic security in rural India. Modern Asian Studies, 32(01), 1–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Actuarial Report (2014). Accessed February 2016.
  3. Annual Report and Financial Statements HelpAge. (2012). Accessed January 2016.
  4. Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration (2011) Accessed January 2016.
  5. Ara, S. (1997). Housing facilities for the elderly in India. Ageing International, 23(3–4), 107–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Assayag, J., & Fuller, C. J. (2005). Globalizing India: perspectives from below. London: Anthem Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bengtson, V. L., & Schrader, S. S. (1982). Parent–child relations. In D. Mangen & W. A. Peterson (Eds.), Research instruments in social gerontology (pp. 115–186). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bhat, A. K., & Dhruvarajan, R. (2001). Ageing in India: drifting intergenerational relations, challenges and options. Ageing and Society, 21(5), 621–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bhatia, S. P. S., Swami, H. M., Thakur, J. S., & Bhatia, V. (2007). A study of health problems and loneliness among the elderly in Chandigarh. Indian Journal of Community Medicine, 32(4), 255–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Canada Census (2006). Accessed February 2016.
  11. Carstensen, L. L., Fung, H. H., & Charles, S. T. (2003). Socioemotional selectivity theory and the regulation of emotion in the second half of life. Motivation and Emotion, 27(2), 103–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Census of India (2011). Accessed January 2016.
  13. Chadha, N. K. (2004). Understanding intergenerational relationships in India. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 2(3–4), 63–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Channa, S. M. (2015). Imagining Old Age: Cultural interpretations. In T. Paltasingh & R. Tyagi (Eds.), Caring for the elderly: Social gerontology in the Indian context (pp. 206–222). New Delhi: Sage Publications India.Google Scholar
  15. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative research. London: Sage Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
  16. Chen, M. A. (2000). Perpetual mourning: Widowhood in rural India. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) (2011). Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration. . Accessed February 2016.
  18. Cohen, L. (1998). No aging in India: Alzheimer’s, the bad family, and other modern things. Berkley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Connidis, I. A. (2015). Exploring ambivalence in family ties: progress and prospects. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77(1), 77–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Connidis, I. A., & McMullin, J. A. (2002). Sociological ambivalence and family ties: a critical perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(3), 558–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cumming, E., & Henry, W. E. (1961). Growing old, the process of disengagement. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  22. Delamont, S. (2004). Ethnography and participant observation. In C. Seale, G. Gobo, J. F. Gubrium, & D. Silverman (Eds.), Qualitative research practice (pp. 217–229). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  23. Desai, I. P. (1965). Some aspects of family in mahuva; a sociological study of jointness in a small town. New York: Asia Publishing House.Google Scholar
  24. Desai, R., & Sanyal, R. (2012). Urbanizing citizenship: Contested spaces in Indian cities. New Delhi: SAGE Publications Pvt. Ltd.Google Scholar
  25. Diwan, S., Jonnalagadda, S. S., & Balaswamy, S. (2004). Resources predicting positive and negative affect during the experience of stress: A study of older Asian Indian immigrants in the United States. The Gerontologist, 44(5), 605–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dumont, L. (1960). Homo Hierarchicus: The caste system and its implications. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Dyk, V. S., Lessenich, S., Denninger, T., & Richter, A. (2013). The Many Meanings of “Active Ageing”. Confronting Public Discourse with Older People’s Stories. Recherches sociologiques et anthropologiques, (44–1), 97–115.Google Scholar
  28. Erikson, E. H. (1959). Identity and the life cycle. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  29. Gallina, M., & Williams, A. (2015). Variations in sense of place across immigrant status and gender in Hamilton, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Social indicators research, 121(1), 241–252.Google Scholar
  30. Ghosh, S. (2007). Transnational ties and intra-immigrant group settlement experiences: a case study of Indian Bengalis and Bangladeshis in Toronto. GeoJournal, 68(2–3), 223–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ghosh, S. (2013). ‘Am I a south Asian, really?’ constructing ‘south Asians’ in Canada and being south Asian in Toronto. South Asian Diaspora, 5(1), 35–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gupta, V., Levenburg, N., Moore, L., Motwani, J., & Schwarz, T. V. (2007). Organization model of the southern Asia cluster family business. The South East Asian Journal of Management, 1(2), 125–142.Google Scholar
  33. Havighurst, R. J. (1961). Successful aging. The Gerontologist, 1(1), 8–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Holstein, M. B., & Minkler, M. (2003). Self, society, and the “new gerontology”. The Gerontologist, 43(6), 787–796.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jain, M., & Sharma, A. (2004). Quality of life of religious older people: effect of productive engagement in activities and gender. Indian Journal of Gerontology, 18(1), 103–114.Google Scholar
  36. Kakar, S. (1998). The search for middle age in India. In R. A. Shweder (Ed.), Welcome to middle age (and other cultural fictions) (pp. 75–98). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  37. Kalavar, M. J., & Willingen, J. V. (2005). Older Asian Indians resettled in America: narratives about households, culture and generation. Journal of Cross Cultural Gerontology, 20(3), 213–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Khan, A. M. (2015). Building inter-generational Gap through school education. In T. Paltasingh & R. Tyagi (Eds.), Caring for the elderly: Social gerontology in the Indian context (pp. 206–222). New Delhi: Sage Publications India.Google Scholar
  39. Ladusingh, L., & Ngangbam, S. (2016). Domains and determinants of well-being of older adults in India. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 31(1), 89–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lai, D. W. (2010). Filial piety, caregiving appraisal, and caregiving burden. Research on Aging, 32(2), 200–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lai, D. W., & Surood, S. (2008). Predictors of depression in aging south Asian Canadians. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 23(1), 57–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lamb, S. (1997). The making and unmaking of persons: Notes on aging and gender in North India. Ethos 25(3), 279–302.Google Scholar
  43. Lamb, S. (2000). White saris and sweet mangoes: Aging, gender, and body in north India. Berkley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  44. Lamb, S. (2002). Intimacy in a transnational era: the remaking of aging among Indian Americans. Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, 11(3), 299–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lamb, S. (2005). Cultural and moral values surrounding care and (in) dependence in late life: reflections from India in an era of global modernity. Care Management Journals, 6(2), 80–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lamb, S. (Ed.). (2009). Aging and the Indian diaspora: Cosmopolitan families in India and abroad. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Lamb, S. (2014). Permanent personhood or meaningful decline? toward a critical anthropology of successful aging. Journal of Aging Studies, 29, 41–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lee, I., & Jones, J. (2008). In full bloom: A brain education guide for successful aging. Sedona: BEST Life Media.Google Scholar
  49. Lomranz, J. (1998). An image of aging and the concept of integration. In Handbook of aging and mental health (pp. 217–250). New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lunt, N. (2009). Older people within transnational families: the social policy implications. International Journal of Social Welfare, 18, 243–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Luscher, K., & Pillemer, K. (1998). Intergenerational ambivalence: a new approach to the study of parent–child relations in later life. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60(2), 413–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Madan, T. N. (1966). Family and kinship: A study of the pandits of rural Kashmir; with a foreword by J.A. Barnes. London: Asia Publishing House.Google Scholar
  53. Madan, T. N. (1993). The Hindu family and development. In P. Uberoi (Ed.), Family, kinship and marriage in India (pp. 416–34). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Madan, T. N. (2011). The Hindu householder: The T.N. Madan omnibus. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Moody, H. (2009). In J. Sokolovsky (Ed.), The cultural context of aging: Worldwide perspectives (pp. 67–76) (3rd ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  56. Müller, F. M., & Bühler, G. (Eds.). (1886). The sacred books of the east/translated by various oriental scholars: The laws of Manu translated with extracts from seven commentaries. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Nasreen, A. (2009). Urban elderly: Coping strategies and societal responses. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  58. Pillemer, K., & Suitor, J. J. (2002). Explaining mothers’ ambivalence toward their adult children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(3), 602–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rajan, S. I. (2008). Social security for the elderly, experiences from south Asia. New Delhi: Routledge.Google Scholar
  60. Rajan, S. I., & Kumar, S. (2003). Living arrangements among Indian elderly: new evidence from national family health survey. Economic and Political Weekly, 38(1), 75–80.Google Scholar
  61. Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (1997). Successful aging. The Gerontologist, 37, 433–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rozanova, J. (2010). Discourse of successful aging in the globe & mail: insights from critical gerontology. Journal of Aging Studies, 24, 213–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Samanta, T., Chen, F., & Vanneman, R. (2014). Living arrangements and health of older adults in India. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences gbu, 164, 1–10.Google Scholar
  64. Saskatchewan Labor Market Strategy (2009). Right People, Right Place, Right Time. Accessed February 2016.
  65. Shah, A. M. (1973). The household dimension of the family in India. New Delhi: Orient Longman.Google Scholar
  66. Shah, A. M. (1999). Changes in the family and the elderly. Economic and Political Weekly, 34(20), 1179–1182.Google Scholar
  67. Shah, A. (2015). Ahmedabad: A city in the world. New Delhi: Bloomsbury Publishing.Google Scholar
  68. Sharma, A. (Ed.). (2003). The study of Hinduism. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  69. Shrinivas, T. (1989). Religion and aging in the Indian tradition. New York: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  70. Siddique, C. M. (1977a). Structural separation and family change: an exploratory study of the immigrant Indian and Pakistani community of Saskatoon, Canada. International Review of Modern Sociology, 7(1), 13–34.Google Scholar
  71. Siddique, M. (1977b). Changing family patterns: a comparative analysis of immigrant Indian and Pakistani families of Saskatoon, Canada. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 8(2), 179–200.Google Scholar
  72. Silverstein, M., & Bengtson, V. L. (1994). Does intergenerational social support influence the psychological well-being of older parents? The contingencies of declining health and widowhood. Social Science & Medicine, 38(7), 943–957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Singh, A., & Misra, N. (2009). Loneliness, depression and sociability in old age. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 18(1), 51–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Sudha, S. (2014). Intergenerational relations and elder care preferences of Asian Indians in north Carolina. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 29(1), 87–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sun, K. C. Y. (2014). Reconfigured reciprocity: how aging Taiwanese immigrants transform cultural logics of elder care. Journal of Marriage and Family, 76(4), 875–889.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Accessed February 2016.
  77. Tornstam, L. (2005). Gerotranscendence: A developmental theory of positive aging. New York: Springer Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  78. Treas, J., & Mazumdar, S. (2002). Older people in America’s immigrant families: dilemmas of dependence, integration, and isolation. Journal of Aging Studies, 16(3), 243–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Uberoi, P. (Ed.). (1993). Family, kinship and marriage in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Vatuk, S. (1990). To Be a burden on others. In O. Lynch (Ed.), Divine passions: The social construction of emotions in India (pp. 64–91). Berkley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  81. Vera-Sanso, P. (2005). ‘They Don’t need It, and I Can’t give It’: Filial support in south India.’. In P. Kreager (Ed.), Aging without children: European and Asian perspectives on elderly access to support networks. (pp. 77–105). New York: Oxford: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  82. Wadley, S. S. (2008). Wife, mother, widow: Exploring Women’s lives in northern India. New Delhi: Chronicle Books.Google Scholar
  83. Willigen, J. V., & Chadha, N. K. (1999). Social aging in a Delhi neighborhood. Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  84. Zhou, Y. R. (2012). Space, time, and self: Rethinking aging in the contexts of immigration and transnationalism. Journal of Aging Studies, 26(3), 232–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Zhou, Y. R. (2013). Transnational aging: the impacts of adult Children’s immigration on their Parents’ later lives. Transnational Social Review, 3(1), 49–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Humanities & Social SciencesIndian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN)GandhinagarIndia

Personalised recommendations