Cati Coe is a Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University. Her research focuses on transnational migration, care, and education in West Africa. She is the author of The New American Servitude: Political Belonging among African Immigrant Home Care Workers (2019) and The Scattered Family: African Migrants, Parenting and Global Inequality (2013). She was a co-editor of Transnational Aging and Reconfigurations of Kin Work (2017) and Everyday Ruptures: Children, Youth, and Migration in Global Perspective (2011).
In contemporary Ghana, adult children are considered responsible for the care of aged parents. Within this idealized framework, two aspects of elder care are overlooked. First, such a narrative obscures the role of non-kin and extended kin in providing elder care in southern Ghana historically and in the present. Secondly, it hides the negotiations over obligations and commitments between those who manage elder care and those who help with an aging person’s daily activities. It is in this latter role in which non-kin and extended kin are significant in elder care, while closer kin maintain their kin roles through the more distant management, financial support, and recruitment of others. This talk examines recruitment to elder care and the role of kin and non-kin in elder care in three historical periods—the 1860s, the 1990s, and the 2000s—centered on Akuapem, in southern Ghana. In particular, it shows that helping an aged person relies on previous and expected entrustments, in which more vulnerable, dependent, and indebted persons are most likely to be recruited to provide care.