Material inheritances: an affective story in the history of elderly persons

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Liliana Sousa
Marta Paträo
Álvaro Mendes

Abstract

Material inheritance is an important theme in old age, tied up to the life story and with shaping the manner in which one will be remembered. This study adopts the self-confrontation method to explore the meanings and affects that elderly persons attach to the material inheritance, taking into consideration their experiences both as heirs and donors. The sample comprises five participants (80-95 years). Main findings suggest a process of transmitting material inheritance characterized by the creation of a material legacy throughout life and from both positions (donor and heir); resolution related to receiving inheritances (heir position); and transferral as a donor later on in life. This process seems to play an affective role at individual (self-autonomy vs. lost love) and familial (union vs. isolation) levels. The transmission of material inheritance represents a lifelong task that connects past, present, and future and links generations.

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