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‘You Can’t Turn Back the Clock’: Conceptualizing Time after Institutionalization*

  • Elaine C. Wiersma (a1)

Time is a phenomenon that is often taken for granted. In gerontology, time is often equated with chronological or linear time, which thereby causes time to be defined as chronological age. With this paper, my purpose is to illuminate further understandings of time and how the passage of time is experienced in old age, particularly in the context of a move to a long-term care institution. Towards that end, I describe a case study of a gentleman coming to live in a long-term care facility. In this case study, time was perceived as an element outside day-to-day experience that structured daily life. Specific dimensions of temporality are evident, including biographical time, embodied time, and embedded time (including institutional time). These dimensions of time provide further understanding of the experiences of age and institutionalization.

Le temps est un phénomène que l’on considère comme acquis. En gérontologie, le temps est souvent assimilé au temps chronologique ou linéaire, ainsi causant que le temps devient défini comme âge chronologique. Le but de cet article est d’éclairer la compréhension supplémentaire du temps et comment le passage du temps est relié à la vieillesse, en particulier dans le contexte d’un déplacement personnel vers un établissement de soins de longue durée. Á cette fin, nous décrivons une étude de cas que nous avons mené avec un gentilhomme qui est venu vivre dans un établissement de soins de longue durée. Les dimensions spécifiques de la temporalité sont évidentes, y compris le temps biographique, le temps incarné, et le temps intégré (y compris les notions du temps institutionnel).

Corresponding author
Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to / La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à: Elaine C. Wiersma, Ph.D. Department of Health Sciences Lakehead University 955 Oliver Road Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada P7B 5E1 (
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This article is dedicated to Brian. His insight and wisdom were an inspiration to me. Sincerest gratitude is extended to my doctoral advisor, Dr. Sherry Dupuis. I would like to also thank Diana Parry and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Support was received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada – Canada Graduate Scholarship.

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Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement
  • ISSN: 0714-9808
  • EISSN: 1710-1107
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