Author Archives: Cleopatra Abdou

Revolutionary Gerontology: The Intergenerational Questions

Aug 8, 2012, 1:30 PM, Posted by Cleopatra Abdou

Cleopatra M. Abdou, PhD, is an assistant professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program. This post is part of a series on the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program, running in conjunction with the program’s tenth anniversary.

An elderly man walks away from a house, along a path, using a walker.

Gerontology, the study of aging, is a diverse field that integrates the biological, social-behavioral, and health sciences, as well as public policy. This means that gerontological research addresses a vast range of questions. One type of question asked by gerontologists, including myself, has to do with intergenerational processes. My own research investigates the intergenerational transmission of culture, social identities, conceptions of stress and success, and, ultimately, health. For example, how do our notions of, and relationships to, family affect our health at critical points in the lifespan? More specifically, how do familial roles and responsibilities, such as marrying, reproducing, and caring for grandchildren, correlate with life satisfaction and longevity?

My four siblings and I are the first American-born generation in our family. Our parents came to the United States from Egypt in 1969, and I am strongly identified as both an American and an Egyptian. Anyone who has complex or competing identities knows that it’s a mixed bag—a blessing and a curse. Recently, as I boarded a plane in Cairo to return to the United States, I found myself sobbing with what I think was a kind of homesickness. As happy as I was to return to my immediate family and orderly life in The States, I mourned leaving the land of my parents and all of our parents before them, especially during this important time in Egypt’s history.

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Healthy Egypt: Egyptian Women

Jan 17, 2012, 11:00 AM, Posted by Cleopatra Abdou

Cleopatra M. Abdou, PhD, is an assistant professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program. Her research utilizes experimental, survey, and qualitative methods to investigate how society, culture, stress, and positive resources interact to affect health, well-being, and aging more broadly. Special attention is given in her research to cultural and social influences on health and health-related decisions across the lifespan as well as across multiple generations.

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Dr. Abdou recently launched Healthy Egypt, a blog that discusses current health-relevant issues in Egypt while making social and health science concepts accessible to diverse audiences. The topics covered in Healthy Egypt emphasize the experiences of Egyptians, but are relevant to other Arabs and all humans across the globe. The following was originally posted on Healthy Egypt.

The first time I traveled to Egypt alone, I was carrying what turned out to be this magical piece of paper. It was a note from my father, handwritten in Arabic. I walked through the airport in Cairo delirious from the long trip and mesmerized by my surroundings. I was trying to read all of the signs in Arabic while also taking in the sea of faces—more faces similar to my own than I had ever seen in one place before. I noticed the people staring at me, but it did not matter because I was finally in the land of my mother and my father. I thought of my mom, who we lost in childbirth when she was very young, walking through this same airport; and I felt a happiness I can’t describe.

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