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Accepted Paper:

Aging On-Screen: Visual Media as Method for Communal Care  
Verónica Sousa (ICS, UL)

Paper short abstract:

In a Lisbon senior day center, the staff and elderly members care for each other in ways that challenge active aging campaigns. With visual media, they illuminate the ways in which communal care produces a process of intersubjective self-making through reflections on friendship, loss, and mortality.

Paper long abstract:

"Ah, Maria do Céu!" Sónia exclaimed. Projected onto Lisbon's Santos-o-Velho Day Center's blank wall was a homemade film by the Center staff. Maria do Céu had died a couple years prior. Sónia continued, "that'll be us next."

In this paper, I show how intimate relationships built on communal care are integral to the everyday life at the Center, and that the use of visual media by staff and elderly members complicates and deepens the significance of communal care. The act of filming and photographing daily life and events (to keep an active archive of the Center's activities and goings on, and to refresh the members' memories) at the Center allows for an intersubjective self-making. Confronted communally with images of the self and of each other, the members and staff reflect on their relationships to each other, to care, to loss, and to their own mortality.

Watching themselves care for each other serves to refract moments of daily life, rendering visible the nuances, ambiguities, and the depth of communal care in the Center. This allows for an intersubjective notion of a "good life" different than the one imagined by the state, and circumvents the neoliberal ideal of the "good life" inscribed in "active" and autonomous aging campaigns. Communal care, especially among the elderly themselves, allows us to consider new ways of flourishing in old age, while reconfiguring care, everyday intimacy, and visual methods used by our own interlocutors (Mattingly 2014).

Keywords: Aging, care, communal, visual media, intersubjectivity, loss, mortality.

Panel P060
Illuminating Futures of the Life Course through Visual and Digital Media [Age and Generations Network]