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Culture and Consumption among the Elderly: Three Research Objectives in an Emerging Field

  • Grant Mccracken (a1)
Abstract

The ‘person–object relations’ of the elderly has yet to be fully exploited as an opportunity for gerontological research and insight. We have yet to examine in any exhaustive way how elderly people treat consumer goods and consumption activities as sources of cultural meaning, and how they manipulate this meaning in order to accomplish certain kinds of social and cultural work in their lives. The object of the present paper is to review the emerging field of person–object studies and to note three of the research objectives that emerge from it for the study of people in later life. It will examine the way in which they use objects (1) for mnemonic (aide-mémoire) purposes, (2) to negotiate transitions in self and status definition, and (3) as instruments of cross-generational influence. Each of these questions will be discussed with illustrative material from an ethnographic research project now in progress. Practical implications of each question are noted.

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