Orchestrating Ageing - A Field Approach Towards Cultural Disengagement in Later Life

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Vera Gallistl
Viktoria Parisot


Despite gerontology’s growing interest in culture, relatively little atten­tion has been given to older adults’ participation in theater. This paper addresses this gap by developing field theory as an analytical tool to conceptualize processes of cultural disengagement in later life. Ten older individuals (60+ years) were invited to investigate their access to three different theater spaces in Vienna. The investigation was documented through participatory observations, qualitative interviews, and photo di­aries. The results highlight three specific sets of rules that are relevant in theater: Rules about 1) the ageing body, 2) mobility, and 3) subjectivities. Furthermore, these rules are age-coded, which means that many of the rules visitors in theaters have to follow to be able to participate in theater are not easily followed by older adults. Finally, this article outlines the potential of field theory for gerontology and highlights the importance of studying processes of cultural disengagement in later life.


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