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J Women Aging. 2006;18(1):5-20.

Changing cultural and social environments: implications for older East Asian women.

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  • 1Ohiuo State University, College of Social Work, 1947 College Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1162, USA.


The world is aging and the trend is towards a global feminization of aging. In the Asia Pacific region, which already contains approximately 50% of the world's population over age 60, the number of older women exceeds that of older men in most countries. This article explores the changes that are occurring in East Asian social and cultural traditions for aging and discusses the implications of those changes for women who aged in that culture. In the traditional culture, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean families are influenced by values of family centrality and collective orientation to life that are mostly rooted in Confucian values and ethics. In those traditions, older women assume and maintain a valued status within the family and community through respected roles and productive contributions. However, various factors, such as migration to urban areas and demographic shifts, have precipitated modernization of these societies and alterations of traditional culture. These cultural shifts are relevant to the United States where, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, 71.0% of Asian and Pacific Islander-Americans over the age 65 are foreign-born. Immigration can prompt an immediate cultural shift and create a fast forward insight into the slower cultural evolution currently occurring in East Asian societies.

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