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Accepted Paper:

Active/ Inactive Retirement Groups  
Pauline Garvey (Maynooth University, National University of Ireland)

Paper short abstract:

Are Active Retirement groups more often 'Inactive Retirement' groups? This paper questions if they totalise a specific vision of age, and whether this vision is on the wane. Looking at alternative informal groups and retiree meet-ups, can we find competing ideas of age, authority and autonomy?

Paper long abstract:

In Europe, the United States and elsewhere lengthening life spans has led to the coinage of the term 'Third Age', to denote a period of older age. Informed by national policies, older people in their third age are encouraged to remain active, healthy and productive for as long as possible. However as well as celebrating older age these policies also carry the potential to 'formalise fears' about dependency and abandonment in later life (cf. Buch 2015: 282). Indeed, Foucault refers to nursing homes as heterotopia of crisis and deviation. Deviation derives not merely from the transition from family home to these other spaces but are so termed because they represent the inactivity of old age (1986).

Why is it then that so many active retirement groups seem to operate on the basis of the passivity of their members? Based on fieldwork with retirees in Dublin as part of the larger ASSA project (Anthropology of Smart Phones and Smart Ageing) this paper focuses on Active/ Inactive Retirement groups. Located in specific spaces such as community halls and parish centres, these groups draw strong support or strong opposition from many of my respondents who view them as totalising a specific vision of age. I examine how older respondents perceive, understand and appropriate such organisations or join alternative groups, which in turn inform their own ideas of self and society. Lastly, I question how ideas of authority and autonomy are realigning in a digital age.

Panel P017
Spaces of Ageing - New Horizons of Mobility and Materiality in Later Life [Age and Generations Network]