Accepted Paper:

Unmaking old age? Infrastructuring active ageing in the Spanish senior cohousing movement  


Daniel Lopez Gomez (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

Paper short abstract:

Based on an ethnography of the Spanish cohousing movement, this paper explores active ageing materializations in the design of their buildings and the community-making process. The paper discusses whether active ageing in these initiatives is a form of unmaking old age or doing age otherwise.

Paper long abstract:

Senior co-housing is gaining momentum in Spain. In the last 5 years, there has been an explosion of groups of people in their late 60s coming together to construct alternatives to both the traditional residential care facility and the better perceived home-based services for ageing-in-place. For them, these living arrangements are both supportive communities and infrastructures to fight against isolation and (collectively) self-manage their later life, which includes the provision of care until the end of life. Based on an ethnography of this movement from 2014 to 2017, this paper explores active ageing materializations and practices in two interrelated areas of these initiatives: the design of the buildings in action and the process of constructing these communities. To do so I draw mainly on ethnographic materials collected from the most emblematic and innovative initiative. Firstly, I show and discuss the normativities (Pols, 2015) of its social and physical architecture as a technology to enhance social connectedness and togetherness and prevent social disengagement (Nettleton et al., 2018). Secondly, I analyze how the future cohousers envisage techniques and procedures to render the ageing process manageable to them as the main challenge in the arduous and long process of building these communities. Based on these two aspects, I will discuss whether these materializations of active ageing are forms of unmaking old age (Lassen and Moreira, 2014) or doing age otherwise (Calasanti and King, 2018; Marshall, 2015).

Panel Age02
Practices and materialisations of active ageing