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Research on cultural exclusion has not kept apace with transformations to rural populations, economy, family structures and community relationships. Cultural exclusion refers to the extent to which people are able or willing to conform to cultural norms and values. We theorise cultural exclusion using the critical human ecological framework and social comparison theory, taking into account period effects, area effects and cohort and/or lifecourse effects. Qualitative case studies in three rural areas of South Wales (United Kingdom) synthesise data from life-history interviews, life-history calendars, documentary sources and focus groups (n = 56). Our findings suggest that cultural exclusion is an issue for rural-dwelling older people, which they describe by temporal self-comparison and group comparisons. The critical human ecological framework provides new insight into the drivers (industrial decline, policy and population change, a shift from collectivism to individualism), and outcomes (sense of belonging, community cohesion) of cultural exclusion experienced by rural-dwelling older people.
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