New Objects, Old Age. The Material Culture of Growing Old

  • Åsa Alftberg Department of Social Work Malmö University


Ageing and old age has become a phase of life occupied with new, often medical, devices; for instances blood pressure meters, medication, hearing aids, dentures and walking aids. These material objects are intended for surveillance, as well as to compensate or replace parts of the ageing body and its altered abilities. This paper examines the material culture of growing old, using a phenomenological perspective as a point of departure and comprehending materiality as permeated with cultural norms and ideas that affect identity and agency. The paper is based on two studies consisting of interviews and participant observation with persons between 66 and 93 years. The analysis focuses on how to understand the process that occurs when older people are faced with new objects associated with a certain age and with certain health conditions, how the medical materiality of old age is accepted, internalized, questioned or resisted, and how these medical objects fit in with everyday life.

Keywords: materiality, ageing, phenomenology, medicalisation, older people’s everyday life
Jan 23, 2018
How to Cite
Alftberg, Åsa. (2018). New Objects, Old Age. The Material Culture of Growing Old. Ethnologia Fennica, 44, 23-34.