Aging and the Meaning of Time: A Multidisciplinary Exploration


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Objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of menopause and aging amongst women in rural villages of Vhembe District in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Method: The study was qualitative and explorative, using phenomenological approach. Purposive sampling was used to select the four villages and to select the focus groups. Sample size was determined by data saturation.

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Results: The study findings were that participants in the villages associated cessation of menstruation to aging rather than menopause. Once menstruation stopped, one was regarded as old. Conclusion: The conclusions of the study were that 1 menopausal issues should be emphasised and receive priority from puberty at the girls initiation schools, high schools, churches, other community resources and health care services so that when women reach menopause, 2 they should accept and be able to effectively cope with menopause and aging.

Doelstelling: Die doel van die studie was om persepsies ten opsigte van menopause en veroudering onder landelike vroue in die Vhembe-distrik in Limpopo Provinsie, Suid-Afrika, te verken. Doelgerigte steekproefneming is gebruik om die vier dorpies en deelnemers van die fokusgroepe te selekteer. Die steekproefgrootte is bepaal deur dataversadiging.

Resultate: Die bevindings was dat die deelnemers die einde van menstruasie aan ouderdom, en nie aan menopause nie, toeskryf. Menopause is regarded as being a natural transitional period toward permanent infertility in women Kakkar et al. In addition, it signals continuous further change in the bodies of older women as many of these women are symptomatic Akinrogunde Menopause and aging begin at midlife and are not an easy transition for many women. These are not always changes that women are ready to accept. The social construction of menopause [ is ] the entry point to old age [ and ] represents a challenging and often difficult time, because, while women may feel rather young and full of energy, society tends to perceive them as becoming increasingly less attractive and less fully functioning.

The time of menopause is characterised by a series of losses that are all associated with aging, such as loss of youth, beauty and fertility, changes in health and a down-regulation of hormones which leads to decreased femininity and calcium levels. Soules et al. Furthermore, it is commonly acknowledged that there are considerable hormonal fluctuations underlying the period of menopause, but no biochemical measurement has been considered acceptable as being a precise marker of menopause.

However, during menopause, the body undergoes three different phases namely premenopause, perimenopause and post-menopause or menopause Ho et al. Premenopause is a state when a woman is still having menses or menstruated within the last three months. Perimenopause is where the woman has menstruated within the last 12 months and is divided into early perimenopause defined by unpredictable or irregular menses and late perimenopause cessation of menses for at least three months within the previous 12 months, but not as a result of hysterectomy, oophorectomy or pregnancy.

Post-menopausal status or menopause is defined as those women whose menstruation has ceased for at least 12 months Frohlich et al. At menopause, various changes occur: the ovaries stop ovulating, becoming less active with regard to the production of sex hormones; menstruation stops over a period of several months with intermittent profuse bleeding; and the blood levels of oestrogen and other female hormones decrease, causing menopausal problems.

At this stage, menopause should be considered a time of adaptation and transition to a new biological situation that involves loss of the reproductive function. It is a necessary stage that all females must go through from middle adulthood Bosworth et al. Chedraui et al. Women experience water retention, weight gain, memory loss, irritability and depression. During menopause, decreased oestrogen levels may cause bladder and vaginal atrophy.

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Vaginal walls become drier and thinner, leading a woman to have less interest in sex or slower arousal time. Women may also develop fibrocystic breasts, breast cancer, fibroids or endometrial cancer as a result of oestrogen deficiency. Before actual menopause, gradual changes, such as a decrease in the amount of menses, a lengthening of the interval between menses, periodic amenorrhoea and, finally, spotting, occur. Credibility was achieved by means of attaining confidence in the data and interpretation thereof. It was thus ensured by the performance of member checks, where the researcher interviewed participants until data saturation.

At the end of the focus group interviews, follow-up discussions were conducted in order to verify the data. Literature control was done so as to ensure triangulation of data sources. Field notes and tape recordings were given to an independent coder to check allocated categories and subcategories. Dependability is the extent to which a study would be consistent should the enquiry be replicated with the same subjects in a similar context under stable conditions over time Cormack ; Jooste In this study, participants were purposely selected and an independent coder verified the allocated categories and subcategories.

Transferability was ensured through purposive sampling, collection of detailed information and dense descriptions of the data. Finally, confirmability was ensured through obtaining valuable information by means of prolonged contact with participants.

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Confirmability was also ensured by the involvement of the independent coder De Vos et al. You know I used to be very big and fresh and now I have lost weight I look wasted. My breasts were so big and nice, my children would get enough milk from one breast, but now they are so thin with no flesh. My big curves and bums are gone with old age [ uttered by a frustrated post-menopausal participant ]. I felt joint and back problems later, headache, forgetfulness and memory loss at times. I look terrible and feel wasted, deformed and no longer attractive.

Now people think I have mental illness and are reluctant to come near me because I sometimes become irritable to them thus they reject me. I do not do it on purpose; it just happens, you know. I am referring to severe joint and back pains, urinary frequency, sleeplessness, forgetfulness and depression. Sweat would dripple [ sic ] down your face when you least expect it even in cold weathers, it is embarrassing to other people who are not used to it. This is like punishment from God, you know [ sigh ].

By the time I reach the toilet, part of the urine has come out or coming out and would wet my under wears. I do not like smelling urine at all and because I have frequency I usually bathe twice a day, in the morning when I go to work and immediately I am [ home ] from work. I stay alone in my house and never had children of my own.

Aging and the Meaning of Time: A Multidisciplinary Exploration

I am sick all the time for over two years now. Only neighbours sometimes assist me with cleaning the house, cooking food and giving me treatment other people discriminate me. This illness is frustrating us as even if you get support from family members, they get tired of helping you all the time. They would say that gegulu li a dina , meaning that old lady is troublesome.

When they start doing that I feel isolated. I even lost sight and my hearing has diminished and I would not hear for a long time, especially on waking up in the morning. She is now very old and in my entire stay with her I never heard her make mention or discuss about it. She used to tell me about all other things but menopause is a taboo. Family and community members do not support sex at old age; it is taboo. According to Ramakuela et al.

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However, menopause and aging are not always changes that the majority of women are ready to accept and they do not get to choose when these will happen, as menopause occurs when a woman reaches a certain age. Menopause at midlife is not an easy transition for many women.


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According to Berger and Wenzel , physical changes brought about by the aging process were found to be more readily accepted by Filipino women, who spoke of looking forward to the joys of old age. Being elderly in Filipino society meant being loved and respected by people in general. To them, the physical problems were usually of minor concern. It seems as if in this study physical and psychological difficulties were a result of an inability to come to terms with the aging process and were inextricably linked to the socio-cultural environment.

The social construction of menopause is viewed as the entry point to old age and represents a challenging and often difficult time because, whilst women may still feel rather young and full of energy, society has a tendency to perceive them as increasingly less attractive and less fully functioning.

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The time of menopause is characterised by a series of losses, including loss of youth, beauty, fertility, libido and health. Berger and Wenzel and Ramakuela et al. This often considerably impairs their self-confidence and the mental perception of being a woman. Others fear old age, because they associate it with loss of attractiveness and, as such, they often display negative feelings toward menopause. The issue of aging was mentioned by Berger and Wenzel and Ramakuela et al.

Baig and Karim and Liu and Eden identified that the menopause- and aging-related symptoms amongst Pakistani women included lack of sleep, urinary incontinence associated with adverse marital problems and poor education, depression, mood swings and loss of self-esteem Life Research Universal The issue regarding menopausal women is as old as mankind.

As far back as , Graves indicated that:. Herek describes stigma as a state of prejudice, discounting, discrediting and discriminating that often results in stereotyping and labelling. They read books, seek good medical advice before making decisions, talk to other women and perhaps to a therapist. Many say they feel freer and more content than at any other time in their lives.


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    Aging and the Meaning of Time: A Multidisciplinary Exploration Aging and the Meaning of Time: A Multidisciplinary Exploration
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    Aging and the Meaning of Time: A Multidisciplinary Exploration Aging and the Meaning of Time: A Multidisciplinary Exploration
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