Ageing in Space: Remaking Community for Older Adults


  • Gudmund Ågotnes Western Norway University of Applied Sciences
  • Sara Charlesworth
  • Martha MacDonald



Community, Older Adults, Ageing in Place, Space


In this paper, we explore the needs of older adults for social interaction by investigating how local and everyday communities are produced by service organisations and experienced by their patrons. We approach the social needs of older adults through the lens of ‘community,’ both as a concept and as a lived experience. Our attention to communities of peers and arenas for everyday interaction is discussed in the context of the dominant policy discourse of ‘ageing in place.’ In this discourse, ‘place’ is predominantly interpreted as physical infrastructure, with little formal recognition of the importance of the arenas of social everyday interaction for older adults outside the home/family.

Our exploration draws on the empirical study of three organisations in Toronto, Canada and Bergen, Norway that, in various ways, represent places for everyday interaction. We discuss how belonging is understood from the perspective of different older groups and how it is facilitated by organisations and services, through the creation of shared, informal social spaces. Even though there is considerable difference in size, aesthetics, target population and geographical impact field, all three organisations offered their patrons a space for informal social interaction in which they were allowed to claim the space as their own. Our analysis indicates a pronounced need for a diversity of arenas for older adults to interact socially. Furthermore, we portray how these spaces for everyday interaction are created often in addition to, or even in divergence from, the official mission of these organisations, in a form of co-optation by patrons.



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