SILENCES, OLD AGE AND INSTITUTIONALISED CARE

in Ethnologia Europaea
Author:
Karoliina Ojanen University of Helsinki karoliina.ojanen@helsinki.fi

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The article examines how silence materialises and is performed in residential care homes for the elderly, and how these practices are intertwined with the cultural narrative of old age in Finnish society. The data consisting of ethnographic fieldwork in two care units shows that silence is involved in many aspects of the residents' lives. Though these practices of silence do not mean the absence of the residents' agency, here they both expose and construct stereotypical conceptions regarding old age and concretely narrows the experiences of old people. By considering the décor of care units and interactions, the researcher identifies silence as a central feature of doing old age. It is only partly produced by the elderly themselves, and it carries both negative and positive meanings.

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