This study explores some of the issues related to the formal and informal care systems for unpaired elderly in kibbutz society The kibbutz as part of its general responsibility for its members, views itself as ultimately responsible for the welfare of its elderly members irrespective of the availability of family support Family members are not normatively viewed as obligated to provide care, yet the degree to which family support is expected and facilitated is not explicitly defined m formal by-laws of the kibbutz
In a societal context as such where the collective is obligated and committed to respond to the needs of its elderly members, what types of formal community services are developed by the kibbutz? Does the family play a role m care provision or does it abdicate responsibility to formal supports provided by the kibbutz? What are the elderly’s and caregivers’s attitudes toward the system of service and care provision, given the roles of the formal and informal care systems?
The principal findings of the study, as related to the aforementioned research questions, are presented in this paper A sample of impaired elderly and their caregivers in 53 kibbutzim were interviewed. Initial interviews were conducted with 269 elderly and follow-up interviews were conducted one year later with 196 elderly
The kibbutzim were found to have developed a range of formal community services which included specially-trained personnel from among kibbutz members, special housing arrangements, health care or congregate living facilities, and special employment programs. Despite the overall responsibility assumed by the kibbutz for the welfare of its members as expressed by the development of various formal services, family members were found to be extensively involved in care provision, most commonly in partnership with formal manpower resources developed within the kibbutz. A majority of the elderly were satisfied with the care they received and most of the caregivers expressed satisfaction with the organization of care.
Social gerontological practice and research are increasingly concerned with the need to adjust or restructure existing social institutions and policies to meet the changing needs for care provision of the expanding numbers of impaired elderly in society. Extended longevity of the elderly creates and exacerbates the problems of the old-old and also increases their need for more supportive mechanisms on a continuum ranging from domiciliary services, to planned protective housing environments, to institutional care
The physical, mental, and social well-being of this vulnerable elderly population hinges on two major systems of care provision The informal system is based on family, friends, and neighbors The formal system is of a statutory local or national character The patterns of interaction between the two can vary m different social and cultural contexts. Yet, the study of practical solutions adopted in one setting may have broader implications for policy and practice in other social settings.
The Israeli kibbutz is a geographically limited and age-integrated communal settlement Due to its unique social structure and principles of conduct, it has long been considered an ideal social laboratory, and has served as a context for studies by both local and foreign researchers. Aging, as an emerging issue in kibbutz society, has aspects specifically linked with the unique ideological principles, norms, and demographic development of the kibbutz A deeply ingrained commitment to social values such as equality, cooperation, solidarity, democracy, and mutual aid are attributes characterizing kibbutz society
Although the veteran kibbutzim were established well over sixty years ago, aging in this societal context is a relatively new phenomenon. The first kibbutzim were founded by groups of ‘pioneering’s European youth. With the passage of time, the social structure of the kibbutzim expanded to encompass two, three, and even four generations of families. Since many of the founding members were of similar ages they crossed the boundary of old age together. As a result, the phenomenon of aging ’sprang upon’s kibbutz society and found it unprepared emotionally, socially, and organizationally (Altar, 1983; Cnaani, 1973; Leviatan, 1985). In the early seventies, pearsons aged 65 and over accounted for 4% of the total kibbutz population as compared to 10% today (Central Bureau of Statistics, 1975). In most of the veteran kibbutzim, the elderly comprise between 20 to 40% of the total kibbutz membership (Leviatan, 1983).
Historically, kibbutz society has been quite successful in anticipating and creatively solving problems associated with child-care and education. However, since the kibbutz was a youth-centered society both in terms of its ideals and in age structure, the issue of aging was of marginal concern (Atar, 1983; Talmon-Garber, 1970, 1972) Thus, initially the kibbutzim lacked a sufficient level of understanding and resources to cope effectively with the issues associated with aging However, over time, awareness has steadily increased with the growing visibility of the elderly, and the increasing prevalence of problems associated with old age. In accordance with the guiding principles of kibbutz life, many of the kibbutzim have responded to the challenge through collective effort and responsibility At the national level, the Inter-Kibbutz Department for Older and Aged Kibbutz Members was established, and has continually worked to enhance awareness among the kibbutz communities regarding issues of aging and to encourage the development of elderly service programs.
The normative position of the kibbutz toward the issue of family responsibility is that the kibbutz, not the family, is formally obligated to provide care to its elderly members The degree to which family support is expected, encouraged, and facilitated is not explicitly defined in the formal by-laws of the kibbutz. References in the literature do exist, indicating a positive attitude toward the family role (Leviatan, 1985; Shapira, 1986; Talmon-Garber, 1972; Yehudai, 1985). On the other hand, one does find frequent reference to the kibbutz as an ideal setting for addressing the issues of aging in view of the overall responsibility assumed by the kibbutz for the welfare of its members, irrespective of their age, health condition, and family status (Leviatan, 1983; Reinharz, 1988; Wershow, 1973).
This article is based on a study ofthe issues related to the formal (kibbutz provided) and informal (family, friends/neighbors provided) care systems for impaired elderly in kibbutz society. The study was undertaken by a joint team of American and Israeli researchers, with the active cooperation of the Inter-Kibbutz Department for Older and Aged Kibbutz Members.
We addressed the following questions:
What types of formal community services have been developed in the kibbutz to respond to the elderiy’s needs?
hi a societal context in which the collective is obligated ajidconumtted to nieetmg the rajigeofneeds ofthe elderly, does the family play a role in care provision?
How successful is the kibbutz in meeting these needs, given the roles of the formal and informal care systems?
Whom do the care providers view should appropriately assume primary responsibility for care provision?
What are the care recipients’s preferences with regard to sources of care provision?