Biesele, Megan and Nancy Howell. 1981. “‘The Old People Give You Life’: Aging among !Kung Hunter-Gatherers.” In Other Ways of Growing Old: Anthropological Perspectives, edited by Pamela T. Amoss and Stevan Harrell, 77-98. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

Elderly Ju/’hoansi (in this article referred to as !Kung) may have physical limitations, but they are frequently healthy, active contributors to their camps. They have special value for Ju/’hoansi society due to their detailed knowledge of animal and plant resources, their understanding of how to maintain community sharing patterns, and their ability to prevent conflicts from arising over resources. The old people are especially loving and helpful toward their grandchildren, whom they teach invaluable practical knowledge, culture, lore, and values. The elderly Ju/’hoansi do not accumulate goods any more than others do, since they remain as dependent as everyone else on social relationships based on mutual assistance, gift giving (hxaro), and reciprocal visiting. Among their many roles, grandparents instruct their grandchildren in hxaro, the Ju/’hoansi system of giving away some of their possessions to foster social ties.

We appreciate the permission to copy this article for the Peaceful Societies Website granted by Prof. Megan Biesele, Prof. Nancy Howell, and Stanford University Press. The article, in PDF format, is 63.9 KB in size.

Retrieve the article.