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Keeping disease at arm's length – how older Danish people distance disease through active ageing


Many older people live with a range of chronic diseases. However, these diseases do not necessarily impede an active lifestyle. In this article the author analyses the relation between the active ageing discourse and the way older people at two Danish activity centres handle disease. How does active ageing change everyday life with chronic disease, and how do older people combine an active life with a range of chronic diseases? The participants in the study use activities to keep their diseases at arm's length, and this distancing of disease at the same time enables them to engage in social and physical activities at the activity centre. In this way, keeping disease at arm's length is analysed as an ambiguous health strategy. The article shows the importance of looking into how active ageing is practised, as active ageing seems to work well in the everyday life of the older people by not giving emphasis to disease. The article is based on ethnographic fieldwork and uses vignettes of four participants to show how they each keep diseases at arm's length.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Aske Juul Lassen, Department of Ethnology and Centre for Healthy Ageing, University of Copenhagen, Karen Blixensvej 4, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
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