Population Aging and Family Change: Effects on the Living Conditions of Older People in Rural Nepal
Nepal’s population is in the midst of demographic transition and experienced tremendous demographic changes in the last four decades with substantial declines in fertility and mortality rates, and significant increases in life expectancy. The country still has a young working-age population but is fast approaching an ageing population (Feeney, Thapa, & Sharma, 2001; HAI & UNFPA, 2017). Simultaneously, Nepal has continuous high rates of migrating population, ruralto-urban but also outside the country. Demographic transition combined with massive outmigration, particularly from the Middle Hills, bring enormous changes in the family and household composition for a growing proportion of older people. The absence of younger familyand household members lead to altered living arrangements that in turn have implications on familial support and intergenerational care. Shrinking households due to split, or multi-locality of households (e.g., Poertner, Junginger, & Müller-Böker, 2011; Pun, Subedi, Pandey, & Pokharel,
2009; Speck, 2017; Thieme, 2008), and also the change of young women’s roles and status (e.g., Pudasaini, 2015; Zharkevich, 2019) furthermore adversely affect the livelihoods of older people and the family-based care for them. This paper focuses on family change and the living conditions of older people who reside in rural hilly regions of Nepal. The family as the most important social institution for the old is crumbling and influenced by current socio-economic changes. Empirical data from the case study is based on 71 in-depth qualitative interviews with older people and group discussions in five different rural villages of Kaski and Syangja districts of Gandaki province. The study explores the changes from an emic perspective, experienced by older villagers. Findings reveal that consequences of the absence of younger family members includes altered living arrangements, a redefinition of roles and status, a redistribution of work among family and household members, changes in behavior and attitude of younger toward older people, and a decrease in intergenerational care and support (see Speck, 2017). Changes within the family disfavor older people who find themselves in a phase of transition where state provisions remain largely limited and family support is lessening and no longer secure.
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