The Institutional Aging Process. Ethnographic Explorations of Aging Processes and Dimensions in Danish Schools and Eldercare Institutions

Lone Grøn, Else Ladekjær


In this paper, we will present an analysis of the institutional aging process in childhood and old age in contemporary Denmark. We will take as our point of departure Jennifer Johnson-Hanks’s observation that aging should be seen both as an experiential and an institutional process, and we will apply Ingold’s topographical phenomenology and his notions of maps, landscapes and wayfaring to our ethnographic data. Drawing on field work in Danish schools and elder care institutions, we explore aging processes through their spatial organizations and progressions. We sum up by reflecting on the similarities and differences between aging processes in early and late life. We argue that even if the institutional aging process can be seen as a map of the aging landscape – which acts as a powerful construct in experiences and practices of aging – wayfaring through that same landscape takes place between several poles: chronological, biological, social and phenomenological age – and involves considerable creativity and ongoing work and negotiation from both children and elderly.


Aging, old age, childhood, institutional aging process, phenomenology

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