Vad är det att åldras? : en etnologisk studie av åldrande, kropp och materialitet

Detta är en avhandling från Lunds universitet

Sammanfattning: This dissertation aims to explore and describe ageing and old age from an ethnological perspective and create a deeper understanding of the complex nature of ageing by focusing on how cultural concepts and the ageing body together shape the experiences of old age. The theoretical basis is a phenomenological perspective, highlighting the relation between the body and the materiality of everyday life. Objects, places and routines are viewed upon as existential tools, part of the process of creating meaning. This is a qualitative study; the material consists of interviews, participant observations and an ethnological questionnaire sent out through the Folk Life Archive at Lund University. The participants are both men and women and they are eighty years or more. The study shows how the ageing process makes the materiality of everyday life become apparent. Well-known objects transform from invisible and taken for granted, to visible and something reflected upon. Likewise, the ageing body makes habits and routines emerge and come into sight. Old age requires flexibility, a readiness to reshape, invent or end ordinary habits and routines. Routines also organize time, and when the biological and the cultural rhythms differ, it is something the individual has to relate to in thought and in action. Just as objects appear and become visible and reflected upon, so do places emerge. Places outside the home show that ageing and old age tend to make the boundary indistinct between the experience of being a subject and the experience of being categorized as an “old person”. At home, such a categorization is less important, since the home environment has the power to strengthen the individual´s subjectivity and identity. The ageing process may also entail the incorporation of new objects, intended to compensate or replace bodily functions. Since these objects are associated with decline, decay and infirmity, it can be difficult to adapt and integrate them into everyday life. Such objects imply taking on an identity as an “old person”, which might feel alienating. When the participants describe their daily life, they express the feeling that it is everyday materiality that has changed, not themselves or their bodies. The conclusion is that the ageing process occurs in the relation between the body and the surrounding world and its objects.