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Leaving his comfort and sense of home contributes to Jacob’s isolation and that of all elderly that must move into assisted living facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes. “Our personal social networks constitute a key depository of our identities, our histories, and our well-being” (McGoldrick & Hardy, 2008, p. 39) Social disruption for the aging individual can mean several transitional changes such as living with your children who are now taking care of an supporting you and maybe living with grandchildren as a result of necessity to live with others due to health concerns. It can also mean moving to a nursing home, and being “surrounded by people with whom they have little in common” (McGoldrick & Hardy, 2008, p. 43).
Jacob’s character in Water for Elephants demonstrates issues related to the aging population which are often overlooked in US culture today. Mr. Jankowski struggles with the loss his home, adapting to new physical limitations in dealing with his mobility and dexterity, new cultural customs and rituals, agism, marginalization, and diminished self esteem. Mr. Jankowski’s deals with these changes with much adversity and anger, and only until he leaves the nursing home for the circus does he find solace in a familiar place.


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