The Order of Widows: What the Early Church Can Teach Us About Older Women and Health Care
Kaveny, M. Cathleen
Christian Bioethics 2005 April; 11(1): 11-34
This article argues that the early Christian "order of widows" provides a fruitful model for Christian ethicists struggling to address the medical and social problems of elderly women today. After outlining the precarious state of the "almanah"--or widow--in biblical times, it describes the emergence of the order of widows in the early Church. Turning to the contemporary situation, it argues that demographics both in the United States and around the globe suggest that meeting the needs of elderly women will become an enormous challenge in the years to come. The order of widows illustrates a three-fold conception of solidarity that has immediate implications today. That conception of solidarity encourages us: 1) to identify the unique medical needs of elderly women (e.g., osteoporosis); 2) to find ways of overcoming their societal isolation, which can increase their risk of medical and psychological problems; and 3) to develop strategies for enabling them to remain contributing members of the community for as long as possible.
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