Middle Age and Old Age

Middle age is a time when householders achieve their highest level of prosperity (although they are still quite poor by standards outside the countryside). Children are grown up enough to contribute real labor power to the family, so they can obtain the most production from their lands, livestock, or even wage-labor and market efforts. Their ayni (reciprocal labor relationships) are well established and maximally productive. Middle-aged men take on positions of responsibility in their communities and sponsorship of prestigious fiestas. Middle-aged women have informal reciprocal networks to call upon for help with cooking and hosting such events and other economic exchanges they may require. They can also expect to have new daughters-in-law who live with them and provide almost an indentured servant level of domestic service (Mitchell, 1998). Women who may have borne nearly a dozen children experience the relief of declining fertility.

The achievement and prestige of middle age slowly give way to the reduced responsibilities and lower prestige of old age. As children mature and marry, older adults begin to retire from their farming responsibilities and turn more land over to their children. A favorite child will marry but remain in the parents' household and eventually take responsibility for caring for the aging parents. Some older people of both genders continue to be active in managing small amounts of their land, caring for grandchildren, or serving the community as a yatiri, or shaman. When they relinquish these active roles, old women may help care for babies, tend the kitchen fire, gather brush for tinder, or sit quietly spinning or knitting. They seldom offer their opinions in family discussions and may be ignored if they do. Very old men, fewer in number, often complain that they are not receiving proper respect from their grown children, but their complaints seem to fall on the deaf ears of their busy middle-aged offspring.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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