What can pleasure in the nursing home teach us about dementia and subjectivity?
In this article I seek to challenge the assumption that the ‘fourth age’ involves
the loss of subjectivity. In presenting dementia as a single pathway towards loss
and decline, alternative pathways that provide more hopeful imaginaries become
obscured. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in residential dementia care, I show
how care professionals craft conditions that invite residents to take pleasure in,
for example, dancing and bathing, and thus to become what I call ‘appreciating
subjects’. Although residents do not craft these conditions themselves, they are
active in accepting the invitations offered and enacting their appreciations. I argue
that pleasure is a relational achievement, one that is contagious for those who let
themselves be affected.