Aging and Personhood in the Landscape of the Mega-Casino: Retirement at the Tables
Keywords:personhood, active aging, casinos, gambling, older adults, value, USA
The retirement of the Boomer generation constitutes the largest wave of retirements in US history. This article examines the ways in which mega-casinos as institutions have become new spaces of aging and important sites where the ideals of retirement can be played out. Based on thirty-two months of fieldwork at two of the US’s largest casinos, I argue that these facilities help older adults maintain their personhood by engaging them socially, mentally, and physically through the myriad services and amenities they offer. Dominating narratives informed by Western economic and medical trends call for ‘active aging,’ ‘productive aging,’ or ‘aging gracefully,’ and these related paradigms emphasize social engagement along with physical and cognitive activities as the keys to thriving in old age. The casino environment simultaneously challenges and facilitates these narratives, providing an age-diverse setting in which seniors can exercise, entertain family, acquire gifts, and earn status. Drawing on David Graeber’s (2001) framework for theorizing value, I assert that it is participation in the many activities of the casino, rather than the monetary wins and losses, that has constituted them as valuable places to sustain personhood and achieve the ideals of an ‘active’ or ‘successful’ retirement.
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