A Paper I Didn’t Give About Ageing

On Friday, I went along to the Melbourne Social Equity Institute‘s forum for research on ageing. As an anthropologist, I found listening to tales of healthcare research and policy initiatives fascinatingly exotic.

My own work on ageing centres on the experience of what it is to grow old. I’m particularly interested in how the places where we live shape the ways we define ageing well.

I’d proposed a paper on this topic to the forum, but in the end individual papers gave way to multidisciplinary discussion.

If I had given a paper, it would have gone rather like this:

Growing Old with Millstone Grit: Successful Ageing and the Specificities of Place

Growing old does not come with an explicit instruction manual. But, how a person should grow old is socially scripted. As an anthropologist, I’m interested in these scripts: in the eloquence (or otherwise) of the performers, in the arcs of the scenes. Researching in postindustrial West Yorkshire, Northern England, I’m also fascinated by the stagings. The Pennine landscape is one of rugged hills, mothballed mill chimneys, isolated farmsteads, wind and rain. It is not an easy place, and local precepts abjure ‘softness.’ What does this mean for those growing old there? Exploring this question connects my work to the broader scholarly themes of successful ageing and ageing in place. And, my findings show the overlap between the two themes: as I will illustrate in this paper, social scripts for successful ageing twine with the specific stagings of place.