Publication date: March 2019
Source: Journal of Aging Studies, Volume 48
Author(s): Nicole K. Dalmer
The home environment is pivotal in the lives of older people, intimately intertwined with one’s sense of self and belonging. Aging in place (AIP), continuing to live in the same or familiar place or community for as long as possible not only fulfills a neoliberal and economic imperative but aligns with the wishes of a majority of older Canadians, who prefer to age in place. Despite policies’ contributions to differing experiences of aging, the potential bearing of the narratives embedded within AIP or age-friendly policies remains unexamined.
Within an institutional ethnography method of inquiry, this study applied Bacchi’s “What’s the Problem Represented to be?” (WPR) approach to structure the discovery of governing narratives about familial care work embedded within seven Canadian aging in place policies at the municipal, provincial, and federal level. I analyzed these policies for their role in coordinating the experiences of caring for an older adult who is aging in place in London, Canada’s first age-friendly city. Of particular interest for this study is uncovering whether these texts recognize the work, and in particular the information work, of providing care to an older adult who is AIP.
The policies’ overall focus on self-reliance, independence, and resourcefulness frames aging in place as a process that can and should be responsibly managed. Information is introduced as a helpful tool to secure and preserve older adults’ independence and usefulness to their community. The policies’ problematizations frame successful aging in place as governed through a logic of choice, where a complex problem is framed as a matter of choice. Ultimately, however, while the policies offer a number of different “choices” for older adults to AIP, a critical unpacking of the problematizations reveals the choice to AIP to be illusory. There is only one option presented in the policies and that is to AIP.