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Multicultural Aging Project: Interview With Elder

A conversation with Musa Abdullah, a 70-year-old community representative and elder in the Somali community. We met at the masjid, and he has since been my mentor. I have encountered him in his duties, and he is a passionate leader of the people. He urges today’s youth to avoid conflict, respect one another, and abstain from drugs. Musa wants the government to help fund the construction of community facilities so that he and other parents can address concerns like racism, substance abuse, and crime. He is thankful for his long life and greatly enjoys mentoring today’s youth. Aging for him is just a normal thing since he has no abnormalities. He is accorded respect as a leader in the community 1. Musa also discusses how the treatment of elders differs between traditional Somali and American values. He addresses issues concerning healthcare, an essential facility for older people like him and children. He also advocates for proper education among the community members, mostly the youth, by developing education programs.

Information About Interview Subject

War in Somalia forced 70-year-old Musa Abdullah to flee to a refugee center in Kenya before eventually settling in the Twin Cities. Because of his advanced years, he commands excellent regard as a recognized community elder. Parents frequently seek his guidance on school enrollment and neighborhood conflict resolution. Wisdom, a quality he is developed as he has gotten older, is something he stresses when giving advice (Maree, 2021). Abdullah encourages the younger population to avoid negative influences, appreciate people of all backgrounds, and abstain from drugs. His neighborhood is plagued by racism, substance abuse, criminality, and teen pregnancy; he thinks the government can assist by constructing youth facilities. For example, he comments on how his society places a higher value on respecting and honoring one’s seniors than the American culture he has experienced. Abdullah is thankful for his extended life and considers serving the community’s youth a pleasure.

Meaning of Elder Status in Community

Community members look up to and revere elders as a mark of distinction. The knowledge and expertise of the elderly are respected. They are honored for their role as preservers of the neighborhood’s customs and beliefs. When conflicts and disagreements develop, the elders mediate a peaceful resolution (Carstensen, 2021). They act as a resource for the community, offering counsel on matters such as health, relationships, and schooling. The community’s cultural traditions and history also fall under their purview, as they must be preserved and passed on to the next generation. When preserving the community’s social fiber, it is up to the elders to foster a sense of togetherness and peace. They ensure that the community’s beliefs and traditions remain unchanged over time and give residents a feeling of security. Elder status is gained through years of expertise, wisdom, and devotion to society. It is an important role that requires dedication and hard work but also comes with high praise and esteem.

What Interview Subject Wished They Knew When Younger

Musa Abdullah, a respected senior in his community, laments that he lacked the insight to recognize the value of experience when he was younger. Unlike when he was younger, when he preferred to debate rather than listen, he now understands the importance of listening to others and taking their advice on being a good leader (Falzarano et al., 2022). He encourages young people to avoid criminal activity, abstains from drugs, and treat all members of society with dignity and respect. Regarding the problems in his neighborhood, he thinks that community organizations need government funding and that parents should be more engaged in their kids’ lives. He appreciates being able to interact with and help the younger population.

Advice for the Younger Generation

Musa’s advice to stay out of danger, attend school, respect others, and avoid drugs will help young people succeed. Knowing that law enforcement officials are trying to keep the public safe and uphold the law can help you interact with them more positively. If you are pulled over while driving, stay calm, follow the officer’s instructions, and do not argue (Carstensen, 2021). Anger will escalate the situation and raise the risk of severe harm or death. Law enforcement rights and responsibilities are vital for youth. Your right to advice and silence are assured. Remembering that police agents are humans and treating them respectfully can defuse tense situations.

Important Community Issues

There is a pressing need to address the problems confronting the Musa people. Society feels the effects of racism, substance abuse, and criminal behavior. It is crucial to help those suffering from these problems is crucial and discovering what is causing them (Maree, 2021) is crucial. The construction of a youth center is a great plan to keep kids off the streets and involved in positive pursuits. Parents are responsible for keeping tabs on their kids, familiarizing themselves with their peers’ backgrounds, and ensuring their kids attend school and religious events regularly. It is crucial to urge children to remain in school and provide the required assistance because education is critical in preventing substance use and criminal activities.

What it Feels Like to Age

As individuals get older, they experience a variety of setbacks that severely test their ability to feel connected to everything near them. It is easy to oversimplify or limit loneliness to a person’s social circle or the frequency with which they interact with their family and peers. Conversely, Musa is thrilled to enter his senior year (Johnson et al., 2019). He is grateful to Allah for granting him a long and healthy life to continue his work with the community’s youth.

Additional Questions and Information

Compared to his societal norms, Musa recognizes that traditional American ideals are different. Elders in Musa’s society do not go to nursing homes; instead, they remain in the family house and are cared for by the next generation. In contrast, in the United States, the elderly are typically placed in nursing homes when their children no longer feel capable of doing so.

Discussion and Application of Developmental Theories of Aging

When analyzing Musa Abdullah’s conversation, we can use Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory of Aging and the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory. According to Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, individuals go through eight distinct phases throughout their lifetimes, each characterized by a unique crisis that must be overcome before moving on to the next phase (Maree, 2021). Integrity versus Despair describes the concluding phase of this theory, which happens in middle age. At this point, one can either look back on their life with a sense of contentment and fulfillment or with remorse and unhappiness. Musa Abdullah may have reached this final level of growth because he advises the younger generation to use knowledge and heed others when making choices. He has a healthy perspective and is content with his life; this is shown by his comments on the esteem he enjoys in his neighborhood.

According to the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory, as individuals get older, they become more choosy in whom they choose to associate with socially (Carstensen, 2021). Compared to younger adults, who are more interested in forming new connections and expanding their social circles, older adults emphasize keeping positive relationships with those most essential to them. According to the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory, Musa Abdullah focuses on his close connections with his family and friends.

It is essential to remember that these theories were formulated in a Western setting and may not accurately represent the lived experiences of people in other parts of the world when evaluating their cultural suitability. On the other hand, both ideas have been tested on a wide range of people and have been found to hold up across cultural boundaries. The regard Musa Abdullah has earned as a community leader aligns with a universal value upheld in many societies. Some of his societal norms, such as bowing to seniors on the floor, may be at odds with those of Western societies.


African American patriarch Musa Abdullah imparts wisdom to the next generation. His advice includes honoring authority figures, avoiding problems, and listening to and considering the perspectives of others. As well as bringing attention to problems like racism and substance abuse, he offers remedies like community centers and family participation. When comparing traditional African values with American ones, he finds significant distinctions in how either culture treats its elderly population and its seniors.


Carstensen, L. L. (2021). Socioemotional selectivity theory: The role of perceived endings in human motivation. The Gerontologist61(8), 1188-1196.

Falzarano, F., Moxley, J., Pillemer, K., & Czaja, S. J. (2022). Family matters: Cross-cultural differences in familism and caregiving outcomes. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B77(7), 1269-1279.

Johnson, A. A., Shokhirev, M. N., & Shoshitaishvili, B. (2019). Revamping the evolutionary theories of aging. Aging research reviewsp. 55, 100947.

Maree, J. G. (2021). The psychosocial development theory of Erik Erikson: a critical overview. Early Child Development and Care191(7-8), 1107–1121.


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