bring on the change

zinniachick(southwest Ohio)October 18, 2007

This from NY Times columnist Tara Parker-Pope in her blog, "Well", 10/5/07. I just thought it might be heartening for more than one of us.

-- Zinnia


Are grandmothers an evolutionary necessity? The contributions of older women to society have long been debated by anthropologists. In the animal world, females often donÂt live much past their reproductive years. But in our world, women live into their 80s and beyond  a fact that may be explained, in part, by evolutionary forces.

"ItÂs the norm in human population that women are vigorous and productive long past their fertility,ÂÂ noted Kristen Hawkes, an anthropologist at the University of Utah. She spoke yesterday at the North American Menopause Society meeting in Dallas.

Today many women feel marginalized once they reach menopause. But research suggests that far from being a burden to societies, grandmothers have played an important role in the evolution of human longevity. Studies of modern hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, Venezuela and Eastern Paraguay  societies that offer insights into how humans evolved  consistently show that Grandma is doing much of the work.

Researchers have even measured the muscle strength of men and women in these communities and weighed the baskets and bundles carted around by them. Often, the scientists find, women in their 60s are as strong as women in their 20s. "ItÂs the women over 40 who are carrying the heavy loads,ÂÂ said Dr. Hawkes.

The research is the basis for the grandmother hypothesis that may help explain why menopause occurs. The basic idea is that an end to a womanÂs reproductive years allows her to channel her energy and resources into caring for her children and grandchildren, thereby providing her descendants with a survival advantage.

Until recently, many researchers argued that menopause isnÂt natural and that modern medicines simply have increased life expectancy well beyond what nature intended. But while itÂs true that the average life expectancy for women was just 40 years only a century ago, recent studies have found the number was skewed by high infant mortality rates at the time. Plenty of women were living well past age 40, Dr. Hawkes said. Even the Bible recognized that women can live well beyond their fertile years, NAMS executive director Dr. Wulf Utian noted.

In hunter-gatherer cultures today, said Dr. Hawkes, "women are strong and economically productive into their 60sÂ.Women are not being helped along by others. The flow of help is going into the other direction."

Here is a link that might be useful: Well

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Great post, Z-chick! Incidentally, I just saw a TV program yesterday (on Nat Geo or Discovery or somesuch) about one modern tribe...can't recall the name, for the life of me!

Anyway, their custom usually involves multiple marriages, but the first marriage to occur in a person's life is between girls of, say, the age of 12 and men in their 40's (not so surprising, I guess). And between a boy and a woman in her SIXTIES! You go, Grandma! LOL

A little extreme, but I'd never considered that women were possibly living beyond the time when they would be considered necessary, either. :D


    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 10:45AM
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maryo_nh(z5 SouthernNH)

Brenda, you crack me up!

Personally, as soon as I was a grandma, I KNEW that I had just been waiting for that all my life. And I'm really good at giving advice! Heehee.
Not to mention lugging heavy pots with water lilies! Obviously evolution had a hand in that too.

:) Mary

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 5:26PM
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sheepco(MN z4)

Thank you ZC.

Everyday I am thankful my mom is still here to mentor me. She's 75 and last weekend spent 2 days pheasant hunting with the rest of us, hiking thru grass, cornfields and sloughs. I figure she hiked 4 miles off-trial on Saturday alone. After 2 advil and a good night's sleep she put in another couple hours Sunday, the last one in a drizzling rain. Still a hunter-gatherer. (You should see her garden!)

Thanks Mom, you and Dad have taught me to love nature, God's wonders, work hard, and enjoy life and the people I share it with. I love you!

I agree - women are never unesseccary.

May you all live long and love long.....

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 9:45PM
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Your mom sounds awesome, Sarah! What an inspiration she is!

Mary, you're the ultimate grandma, the epitome! I can't imagine you sitting in your rocking chair and crocheting, and that's a GOOD thing! :D


    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 9:56AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

I have wondered why it seems that other countries are more likely to have families with 2 or 3 generations living together. Does anyone know of any studies done on the subject? I tried to get my MIL to live with us when she became a widow but she wanted to stay close to her sisters. I know there is a stereotype about two women in one home being impossible but I just don't believe it is always the case. Sandy

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 1:36AM
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Interesting comments, as always, Sandy! I Googled "multigenerational households" and got a lot of hits. It seems more and more people are even heading in that direction in the U.S.

It makes sense for several reasons, a couple being that the extra help around the house is always welcome, as well as the wonderful life experiences from the older generations.

I guess it helps if the younger folks are open to advice, and even criticism, when it comes to raising families. And the older folks are willing to let go of some of their stubbornness and personal space. :)


    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 9:50AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

LOL! Is that interesting according to the old chinese curse: may you live in interesting times? Thank you for doing that search. It encourages me to do one of my own.
There used to be a trend of adding on a mother-in-law suite to homes being built. I haven't seen that recently. How sad. Maybe those could be used by the young people coming back to live with their parents. Maybe our mobile population is learning the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. I know our current house is large enough to allow a young couple space for privacy when they need it and setting up a new kitchen would be a good addition even if it was only a temporary situation. I grew up in a 3 story house with a garage that had an apartment over it. There was a separate kitchen on each floor including one in the basement for a total of 5 kitchens. All of my sisters with their families lived on one floor or another or in the garage apartment while working on a degree, getting reestablished or helping out when a parent was ill. It seemed to work even when the personalities clashed briefly. It all seemed natural to me. Sandy

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 7:14PM
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