Leisure in old age: disciplinary practices surrounding the discourse of active ageing

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Jaroslava Hasmanová Marhánkova

Abstract

In the 1990s, the World Health Organization adopted the term ’’active ageing’’, which currently represents a key vision of old age in Western societies facing the situation of demographic ageing. The meaning of the idea of active ageing is based on the concept of individuals actively and systematically influencing the conditions of their ageing through selfresponsibility and self-care. The aim of this article is to map how the idea of active ageing is constructed and the implications it presents with regard to the way in which seniors relate to their experience of old age. It concentrates on a specific segment of senior-oriented social services (centres for seniors that offer leisure time activities and educational courses) that represent an institutional context for the manifestation of the discourse of active ageing. A three-year ethnographic study was conducted in two such centres in the Czech Republic. The article focuses on various strategies for the disciplining of the ageing body. It points out that these disciplinary practices are an integral part of the daily running of the centres and that the seniors who intensively engage in them have internalised the idea of an active lifestyle as the most desirable lifestyle in old age. Active ageing was constructed by them as a project that must be worked on. Through the ’’technologies of self’’ embedded in the imperative of the necessity to move or do something, they participate in the production of the discourse of active ageing as a form of discipline of the body. At the same time, the article outlines how the idea of active ageing as the ’’correct’’ form of ageing influences the self-conception of these seniors and their attitudes towards ageing and their peers.

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