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

Main Article Content

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.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details



Aceros, J. C., Pols, J. & Domènech, M. (2015). Where is grandma? Home tele¬care, good aging and the domestication of later life. Technological Fore¬casting and Social Change 93: 102–111. doi: 10.1016/j.techfore.2014.01.016 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2014.01.016

Albert, M., & Kleinman, D. L. (2011). Bringing Pierre Bourdieu to sci¬ence and technology studies. Minerva 49(3): 263–273. doi: 10.1007/ s11024-011-9174-2 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11024-011-9174-2

Amigoni, D. & McMullan, G. (2018). Creativity in Later Life. Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315231877

Bernard, M. & Rickett, M. (2016). The cultural value of older people’s ex¬periences of theater-making: A review. The Gerontologist 57(2): e1–e25. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw093 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnw093

Bourdieu, P. (1979/2013). La Distinction. Critique Social du Jugement. Édi¬tions de Minuit.

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Harvard University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1996). The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. Stanford University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9781503615861

Bourdieu, P. (2018). Rules of Art. Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. John Wiley & Sons.

Chan, T. W. & Goldthorpe, J. H. (2007). Social stratification and cultural consumption: Music in England. European Sociological Review 23(1): 1–19. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcl016 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcl016

Clarke, A. (2012). Situationsanalyse: Grounded Theory Nach Dem Postmodern Turn. Springer. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-531-93320-7

Coulton, S., Clift, S., Skingley, A. & Rodriguez, J. (2015). Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of community singing on mental health-related quality of life of older people: Randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry 207(3): 250–255. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.113.129908 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.113.129908

Falk, M. & Katz-Gerro, T. (2015). Cultural participation in Europe: Can we identify common determinants? Journal of Cultural Economics 40(2): 127–162. doi: 10.1007/s10824-015-9242-9 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10824-015-9242-9

Fraser, K. D., O’Rourke, H. M., Wiens, H., Lai, J., Howell, C. & Brett-MacLean, P. (2015). A scoping review of research on the arts, aging, and quality of life. The Gerontologist 55(4): 719–729. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnv027 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnv027

Gallistl, V. (2021). Cultural exclusion in old-age: A social exclusion per¬spective on cultural practice in later life. In K. Walsh, T. Scharf, A. Wanka & S. Regenmortel (eds.), Social Exclusion in Later Life. In¬terdisciplinary and Policy Perspectives (pp. 259–274). Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-51406-8_20 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51406-8_20

Gayo, M. (2017). Exploring cultural disengagement: The example of Chile. Cultural Sociology 11(4): 468–488. doi: 10.1177/1749975517727441 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1749975517727441

Gimlin, D. (2007). What is “body work”? A review of the literature. Sociol¬ogy Compass 1(1): 353–370. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2007.00015.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9020.2007.00015.x

Goulding, A. (2018). The role of cultural engagement in older people’s lives. Cultural Sociology 12(4): 518–539. doi: 10.1177/1749975518754461 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1749975518754461

Hallmann, K., Artime, C. M., Breuer, C., Dallmeyer, S. & Metz, M. (2016). Leisure participation: Modelling the decision to engage in sports and culture. Journal of Cultural Economics 41(4): 467–487. doi: 10.1007/ s10824-016-9275-8 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10824-016-9275-8

Hänzi, D. (2015). Konsekration auf Kredit. In C. Steuerwald, D. Danko, O. Moeschler & F. Schumacher (eds.), Kunst und Öffentlichkeit (pp. 305– 328). Springer VS. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-01834-4_15

Jaeger, M. & Katz-Gerro, K. (2010). The rise of the eclectic cultural con¬sumer in Denmark, 1964–2004. The Sociological Quarterly 51(3): 460–483. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.2010.01175.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2010.01175.x

Jivraj, S., Nazroo, J. & Barnes, M. (2016). Short- and long-term deter¬minants of social detachment in later life. Ageing and Society 36(5): 924–945. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X14001561 (Accessed: October 01, 2020) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X14001561

Krekula, C. (2009). Age coding: On age-based practices of distinction. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life 4(2): 7–31. doi: 10.3384/ ijal.1652-8670.09427 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3384/ijal.1652-8670.09427

Krekula, C., Arvidson, M., Heikkinen, S., Henriksson, A. & Olsson, E. (2017). On gray dancing: Constructions of age-normality through cho¬reography and temporal codes. Journal of Aging Studies 42: 38–45. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2017.07.001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2017.07.001

Krekula, C., Nikander, P. & Wilin´ska, M. (2018). Multiple marginalizations based on age: Gendered ageism and beyond. In L. Ayalon & C. Tesch- Römer (eds.), Contemporary Perspectives on Ageism (pp. 33–50). Springer. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-73820-8_3

Lash, S. (1993). Pierre Bourdieu: Cultural economy and social change. In C. Calhoun, E. LiPuma & M. Postone (eds.), Bourdieu: Critical Perspec¬tives (pp. 193–211). The University of Chicago Press.

Mälzer, N. & Wünsche, M. (2019). Barrierefreiheit und Inklusion am The¬ater. Das Projekt Inklusives Theater an der Uni Hildesheim. In C. Maaß & I. Rink (eds.), Handbuch Barrierefreie Kommunikation (pp. 599–615). Frank & Timme. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3726/b13027

Misoch, S. (2015). Qualitative Interviews. De Gruyter Oldenbourg. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110354614

Noice, T., Noice, H. & Kramer, A. F. (2013). Participatory arts for older adults: A review of benefits and challenges. The Gerontologist 54(5): 741–753. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnt138 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnt138

Perkins, R. & Williamon, A. (2014). Learning to make music in older adult¬hood: A mixed-methods exploration of impacts on wellbeing. Psychol¬ogy of Music 42(4): 550–567. doi: 10.1177/0305735613483668 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0305735613483668

Prior, N. (2005). A question of perception: Bourdieu, art and the postmodern. The British journal of sociology 56(1): 123–139. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2005.00050.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-4446.2005.00050.x

Reynolds, J. (2015). Stories of creative ageing. Working with Older People 19(1): 33–40. doi: 10.1108/wwop-11-2014-0035 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/WWOP-11-2014-0035

Sabeti, S. (2014). Creative ageing? Selfhood, temporality and the older adult learner. International Journal of Lifelong Education 34(2): 211–229. doi: 10.1080/02601370.2014.987710 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02601370.2014.987710

Serino, M., D’Ambrosio, D. & Ragozini, G. (2017). Bridging social net¬work analysis and field theory through multidimensional data anal¬ysis: The case of the theatrical field. Poetics 62: 66–80. doi: 10.1016/j. poetic.2016.12.002 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2016.12.002

Sievers, N. (2009). Herausforderungen und Handlungsoptionen für die Kulturpolitik angesichts des demografischen Wandels. In A. Haus¬mann & J. Körner (eds.), Demografischer Wandel und Kultur: Veränderun¬gen im Kulturangebot und der Kulturnachfrage (pp. 51–70). VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-531-91445-9_4

Simmonds, S., Roux, C. & Avest, I. T. (2015). Blurring the boundaries be¬tween photovoice and narrative inquiry: A narrative-photovoice meth¬odology for gender-based research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods 14(3): 33–49. doi: 10.1177/160940691501400303 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/160940691501400303

Strauss, L. A. & Corbin, J. (1996). Grounded Theory. Grundlagen Qualitativer Sozialforschung. Beltz.

Swinnen, A. (2018). “Writing to make ageing new”: Dutch poets’ under¬standings of late-life creativity. Ageing and Society 38(3): 543–567. doi: 10.1017/s0144686x16001197 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X16001197

Thomson, L. J. & Chatterjee, H. J. (2016). Well-being with objects: Eval¬uating a museum object-handling intervention for older adults in health care settings. Journal of Applied Gerontology 35(3): 349–362. doi: 10.1177/0733464814558267 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0733464814558267

Thomson, L. J., Lockyer, B., Camic, P. M. & Chatterjee, H. J. (2018). Effects of a museum-based social prescription intervention on quantitative measures of psychological wellbeing in older adults. Perspectives in Public Health 138(1): 28–38. doi: 10.1177/1757913917737563 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1757913917737563

Toepoel, V. (2011). Cultural participation of older adults: Investigating the contribution of lowbrow and highbrow activities to social integration and satisfaction with life. International Journal on Disability and Human Development 10(2): 123–129. doi: 10.1515/ijdhd.2011.027 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijdhd.2011.027

Twigg, J. & Martin, W. (eds.). (2015). Routledge Handbook of Cultural Geron¬tology. Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203097090

Tymoszuk, U., Perkins, R., Spiro, N., Williamon, A. & Fancourt, D. (2020). Longitudinal associations between short-term, repeated, and sustained arts engagement and well-being outcomes in older adults. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B 75(7): 1609–1619. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbz085 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbz085

van Eijck, K. (2005). No more need for snobbism: Highbrow cultural par¬ticipation in a taste democracy. European Sociological Review 21(5): 513– 528. doi: 10.1093/esr/jci038 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jci038

von Unger, H. (2014). Partizipative Forschung. Einführung in die For¬schungspraxis. Springer. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-01290-8

VERBI Software. (2017). MAXQDA 2018 [computer software]. Berlin: VERBI Software. Available on maxqda.com (Accessed: October 10, 2022).

Wanka, A. (2019). Change ahead – Emerging life-course transitions as practical accomplishments of growing old (er). Frontiers in Sociology 3: 1–13. doi: 10.3389/fsoc.2018.00045 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fsoc.2018.00045