Health History: Cohort Experiences

There is general agreement that Black older adults have traditionally been treated with great respect in their families. This tradition extends from known customs of pre-slavery civilizations on the African continent through modern customs among African American families and kinship groups in the United States. Griots, or indigenous oral historians, were respected as repositories of cultural historical beliefs, legends, and facts (Watson, 1983).

Ancestral worship, and the belief that older adults are closest to their ancestors, helps to contribute to respect for the living elderly. This custom is similar to that of the Chinese, who have traditionally venerated their aged, believing they were but one step removed from a spiritual union with their ancestors (Watson, 1977).