Aging in Place: Changing Socio-ecology and the Power of Kinship on Smith Island, Maryland
Keywords:aging and changing socioecology, kinship, lifecourse, heritage
This article examines how the people known as Smith Islanders interact with their environment over the life-course. The purpose of the study is to contribute to a better understanding of aging in a small, rural, coastal community which changes are environmentally driven. To address the aging process in changing environments in this essay, I explore the relationship between the place, sense of self, and knowledge. Because the majority of people on the island today are in late life, the main threads in the fabric of this ethnographic narrative weave themselves into stories about aging experiences. I focus on males’ experiences, their traditional knowledge, and the role of kinship over their life-courses. The life history narratives of a Smith Island waterman known as Eddie Boy, discusses two elements present in both his childhood narratives and his late adulthood: work and kinship. I show how changing socio-ecology has altered the potential for intergenerational relations, which older islanders cherish, and how such changes in late life pose a new aging dilemma for current Smith Islanders.
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