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Care of elderly women in Saudi Arabia : a comparison of institutional and family settings

Elyas, Nada Abdullah


Nada Abdullah Elyas


Majella Kilkey

Judith Okely


In recent decades, the structure of social and economic life in Saudi Arabia has undergone enormous change, and among those most affected are the elderly. While Islam enjoins respect for and care of the elderly, economic and social factors are changing the traditional system of family-based care. This thesis investigates care of elderly women in institutional and family settings in Medina. It examines the experience of old age and the discourse surrounding it, focusing on the factors influencing care arrangements, elderly women’s perceptions of their role in the family and society, the practical, economic, social and psychological implications of care for the elderly women and their relatives, the profile of carers, the dynamics of the care relationship, problems faced and support received.

Data for 20 elderly women in a care home were collected through participant observation during a three-month placement, together with semi-structured interviews with 5 residents and 31 members of staff. Data for seven elderly women in family settings were collected through semi-structured interviews with the women, their main carer(s) and domestic staff.

It was found that care decisions were influenced mainly by economic status and family structure. Women in family settings underwent a gradual transition, continuing to a great extent to enact former roles, while care home residents suffered an abrupt change and reconstruction of identity as “patients” and “victims”. While both groups had subsistence and medical needs met, social and psychological needs were poorly met in the care home. Findings for both groups shed light on the roles of female carers, including a heavy reliance on migrant employees, whose motivations, working conditions and relationships with employers are explored. Implications from the findings are drawn for both ageing and migration theory, and for the support needed by elderly women and their carers in both family and care home settings.


Elyas, N. A. (2011). Care of elderly women in Saudi Arabia : a comparison of institutional and family settings. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 25, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Sociology
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Sociology, The University of Hull
Award Date Jun 1, 2011


Thesis (5.2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2011 Elyas, Nada Abdullah. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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