SIEF2019 14th Congress: Santiago de Compostela, Spain
14-17 April 2019

(Age02)
Practices and materialisations of active ageing
Location Room 10
Date and Start Time 16 Apr, 2019 at 16:30
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Aske Juul Lassen (University of Copenhagen) email
  • Daniel Lopez Gomez (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) email

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Short abstract

The life course is being reconfigured through ideals of active ageing. This panel tracks the changes in the practices of old age, and inquire into how active ageing has materialised in new technologies, digitalisations, dwellings and imaginaries, and positioned old age as an active phase of life.

Long abstract

Since the 1990s, active ageing has changed the ways old age has been organised and configured. Active ageing is a fusion of many different ageing theories positioning ageing as malleable, and different kinds of activities as rejuvenating (Lassen & Moreira 2014). With the ageing populations, the healthy generations currently entering old age and the call for an overall change in the ways we perceive old age, active ageing has spread from political forums in the EU and WHO, to local forms of governance, the silver economy and the everyday lives of older people.

While active ageing has been widely studied and criticised, most of these studies have been conceptual and discursive. Only few studies have inquired into practices, technologies and material interventions that pursue active ageing. However, with an increasing interest for socio-gerontechnology and the socio-material constitution of later life by ethnologists, gerontologists and STS researchers, the time is ripe to inquire into one of the major transformations of the 21st century: the reconfiguration of the life course and the practices, policies and technologies forming this change.

With this panel, we wish to track the changes of old age in the slipstream of active ageing policies and discourses, and inquire into how active ageing has materialised in various ways. We encourage papers that ask what kinds of new practices, tracks, technologies, infrastructures, rituals, digitalisations, dwellings and imaginaries that have emerged from the ways active ageing position old age as a new, active phase of life.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

New Bikes for the Old: Materialisations of active ageing

Authors: Aske Juul Lassen (University of Copenhagen) email
Tiago Moreira (Durham University) email
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Short abstract

By exploring two bike initiatives for older persons in Denmark, we study how they materialise active ageing differently and unfold their sociotechnical differences. We suggest that this prompts rethinking of how STS constructs its problematics and imaginaries about technologies and older people.

Long abstract

In recent years, new bike initiatives for the old have been developed in Denmark as part of an overall ambition to promote active ageing. We explore two of such initiatives, their assemblages and the ways they enact old age and active ageing differently. Whereas 'Cycling without Age' rickshaws promote social participation of the old, 'Duo-Bikes' aim to maintain and/or optimise the functional capacities of the old through physical activity. Drawing on ethnographic data, we unfold the synchronous sociotechnical differences across co-existing technologies by following the use of the bikes in two Danish municipalities.

We argue that studying bicycling in old age is not only justified by the emerging importance of the bicycle in addressing key social, environmental and economic challenges, but also by how it prompts rethinking of how STS constructs its problematics. We suggest that STS has consistently valued older people's engagement with technologies to highlight the problematic distributions of knowledge and power in establishing the 'regime of technoscientific promises'. We propose a different approach, wherein we empirically explore parallel sociotechnical arrangements, making visible the conditions under which different sociotechnical arrangements might be possible and imaginable.

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

Author: Daniel Lopez Gomez (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) email
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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.

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).

Sociomaterial Entanglements in the Development of Active and Assisted Technologies

Author: Cordula Endter (University of Hamburg) email
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Short abstract

Age(ing) is reconfigured by intelligent technologies and their use in the lives of older people. What concepts, policies and imaginations motivate the funding and development of AAL and how do they materialize in the technology and its usage I will discuss on the basis of my ethnographic research.

Long abstract

Smart technologies incorporate an attractive promise: they guarantee the maintenance of an independent life even under the conditions of age-related limitations. At the same time, they claim to be able to cope with the increasing need for care due to demographic change. The development of AAL technologies shows, however, that this promise is deceptive: technology development is complex, lengthy and cost-intensive; prototypes are prone to errors, fail to meet market requirements and, despite user-centred approaches, often do not meet users' wishes. Nevertheless, the politics still insists on the funding of these technologies and furthermore focuses on robots and artificial intelligence to cover future care needs. How can this paradoxical situation be understood? In my ethnographic research on AAL, I argue that the development of AAL technologies and their application by users is the result of a complex practice of a multitude of different actors. In addition to (computer) scientists, designers, older users, their families and care-givers, this sociomaterial assemblage also includes funding programmes and infrastructures, political agendas and stakeholders as well as social discourses and ethical concerns. They all are involved to the development and inscribed in the materiality of AAL. I will discuss these sociomaterial entangelments of agents, materialities and practices giving an example from my ethnographic research on the development of an intelligent memory training platform. Here I will show how age and aging are co-constituted in the development of AAL and how the technical configuration of age-specific technologies reconfigures age and aging socially, culturally and politically.

FITNESS CULTURE, BODY IN MOTION AND AGE AS PERFORMED

Author: Dominika Czarnecka (Polish Academy of Sciences) email
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Short abstract

The aim of this presentation is to inquire into how women 'act their age' in the context of fitness culture. I conceptualize age and aging as something that women 'do'. I discuss how the idea of active ageing is accomplished and materialised through female body in the practice of movement.

Long abstract

The notion of ageing is constantly (re)used (in both productive and destructive ways) by the fitness industry for its legitimization and promotion. In spite of the fact that active ageing policies and discourses lie at the center of sport industry, at the level of kinaesthetic practices and embodied experiences of female participants of fitness culture the notion of ageing is constantly negotiated, positioned and reconsidered also in a different way.

Recognizing age as a social construct, I agrue that age and active ageing can be profitably understood as something that is continually accomplished and performed within fitness culture. It means that I conceptualize age and aging as something that female fitness participants 'do', both consciously and unconsciously.

The aim of this presentation is to inquire into how women 'act their age' in the context of female fitness culture. As I am a fitness instructor myself, I am going to focus on performing age 'through the body in motion'. I discuss how the idea of active ageing is accomplished and materialised through the female body in the practice of movement.

This presentation is based on anthropological fieldwork conducted in fitness clubs in Poland. Different research methods include not only in-depth interviews with female fitness culture participants, but also methods of working with the body and personal experience of the researcher herself.

Keeping an eye on the beans: Inactivity among older people in Ghana

Author: Sjaak van der Geest (University of Amsterdam) email
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Short abstract

Daily physical activity, a sacred rule for healthy ageing in the West, is not the life style of older people in the Ghanaian rural community where I carried out my fieldwork. Rules rather stipulate that older people should stop travelling and being busy with work. They should stay home and rest.

Long abstract

This contribution describes and discusses a different way of ageing than is being envisaged in this panel. Daily physical activity, a sacred rule for healthy ageing in Western societies, is not the life style of older people in the Ghanaian rural community where I carried out my anthropological fieldwork. Common sayings rather stipulate that older people should stop travelling and being busy with work. They should just stay at home to prevent the cocoa beans drying in the sun from getting wet. It is a metaphorical way of saying: he/she should take care of peace in the house and advise family members with their wisdom. Being busy and running around (let alone jogging!) would be unfitting for an elderly person. Daily activities are not aiming to keep fit and young.

Being there, is what a respected elder is supposed to 'do'.

Of course, rules, like everywhere are broken or impossible to obey in various circumstances. Elderly men and women (women in particular) may be forced to continue working on the land to feed themselves and their children or grandchildren, for example when there are no younger relatives around. Their activity may even be a shame to themselves and the family. And the romantic picture of the older person sitting in the house and spreading peace through his extensive life experience is sometimes little more than wishful thinking. Hopefully this will throw another light on 'our' concern about active ageing and keeping young.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.