This paper presents the experience of proximity to death in old age in light of ancient ritual practices. Characteristic mechanisms of coping with impending death among the elderly are discussed from the perspective of rites of passage. In accordance with Van Gennep's model, this paper postulates that the subjects belong to a "death culture" characterized by patterns of "separation," "transition" and "fusion." A comparison of funeral and burial rites with daily practices of the elderly offers an interpretation deriving from the domain of ritual symbolism and provides an opportunity for a renewed examination of gerontological approaches and concepts. The discussion will focus on the term "dignity of the dead" which sheds light on patterns of separation from reality espoused by the subjects. The paper asserts that the ritual perspective offers an empathic framework for understanding the predicament of the elderly at the end of their life.
|Number of pages||27|
|Journal||Studies in Symbolic Interaction|
|State||Published - 2004|