Imagining Institutional Care, Practicing Domestic Care: Inscriptions around Aging in Southern Ghana


  • Cati Coe Rutgers University



aging, care, religion, state policy, institutional facilities


Elder care has become a significant national conversation in Ghana due to urban and international migration, lower birth rates, family nuclearization, and longer life spans. In the rural towns of Ghana’s Eastern Region, new elder care practices and discourses are emerging. These age-inscriptions signal the agency of older persons, which  is  often  neglected  and  overlooked.  Discursively,  older  adults  express  curiosity  about  Western  care facilities, a heterodox idea in relation to the orthodox position expressed by the Ghanaian government and NGOs which support kin care for older adults. Through this heterodox discourse, aged persons are able to critique the state and the church for not providing care and re-imagine a Western institution as fitting their locally constructed  needs. On the  other  hand, pragmatically, aged persons  and their children  are adapting existing  practices  of  adolescent  fosterage  to  help  provide  elder  care,  a  practice  which  is  not  discursively elaborated, and is therefore alterodox. Both age-inscriptions are less articulated than standardized discourses about the significance of adult children’s care, the orthodox position. This paper therefore illustrates how social change in norms occurs, through older people’s anxiety about their own aging, the use of their imagination, and their refashioning of existing care practices.

Author Biography

Cati Coe, Rutgers University

Cati Coe is Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University.


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2018-09-24 — Updated on 2023-04-05