Dissertation Abstracts

"No Time to Pick Up Momentum": Middle-Aged Immigrants in Israel

Author: Dolberg, Pnina , pkotliar@post.bgu.ac.il
Department: Social Work
University: Ben Gurion of the Negev, Israel
Supervisor: Prof. Julia Mirsky
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: Hebrew

Keywords: Midlife , Immigration , Phenomenological Study , Narrative Analysis
Areas of Research: Migration , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy , Health


How is a cultural transition experienced in mid-life? Is integration into a new society possible after the age of 45? The literature shows that middle-aged immigrants experience many losses: limited employment options; the risk of poverty after retirement; poor social, cultural, and linguistic integration; health problems and role-reversal in the family.
The present qualitative phenomenological research study deals with the experience and perceptions of migration and aging among middle-aged immigrants, through an analysis of 28 in-depth interviews with individuals who immigrated to Israel from various countries between the ages of 43-60. The interviews have been analyzed with several narrative analysis techniques.
The findings showed that the narratives of migration in middle age included unique experiences that characterize the middle-aged immigrants. A significant experience was these immigrants' understanding that integration in Israel must be done rapidly, and there is no time for trial and error, since their age is a disadvantage. Yet the 'right way' to integrate was usually unclear. The narratives showed a clear division between experiences in the private and those in the public sphere, while the private experiences often attempted to compensate for the losses in the public sphere. In spite of the above similarities, patterns of experience were found to differ by gender, group of origin, years in Israel and the definition of immigration as familial or as individual. The research discusses the support and compensation mechanisms that were developed.
This study offers several contributions. Theoretically, it suggests innovations in the field of middle-aged immigrant experience and its unique characteristics, such as the immigration motives, immigration stages, integration patterns, support systems and compensation mechanisms. Empirically, it contributes to the study of immigrants in Israel, due to its reference to immigrant groups which have received little research attention so far: immigrants from North and South America and immigrants that migrated to Israel without their families. The study has a practical significance, by increasing the visibility of middle aged immigrants in general, and pointing out their unique needs and difficulties.