my new year resolution…

January 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I want to use my observations to create space for change. I also want  to capitalize on whatever is available.

In my dissertation I argue that living alone in older age  is a breeding ground for a precarious existence, an existence often constellated by a chronic struggle to maintain or access scarce resources at many levels. I underlined the importance to break free from the micro level of analysis, the level that is confined to the personal sphere. Once we are free from a perspective that looks mostly at personal attitudes and histories, we can consider the influence of the meso and macro level of analysis. The meso level includes our relation with institutions (be it the family, religious institutions, nonprofits, city departments). The macro encompasses dynamics often beyond one’s reach, such as the market economy and globalization.

The most important lesson gathered this year is that the next step for me is to move beyond the mere analysis of the hardships associated to living alone in older age.

The cue came one month ago from  Graham Rowles, one of the first social scientist that studied the experience of living alone in older age thanks to his wonderful book entitled Prisoners of Space?

By accident, I sat next to Rowles in Boston, at the annual meeting of GSA, the Gerontological Society of America. After his intervention, Rowles explained to me  that for three decades he repeated what is wrong with the system with little result. “it is like bumping against a wall,” he said. Rowles said that to foster change, the best strategy is to honor what we have. Use what we have to improve what we can improve. Leverage and celebrate existing resources.  Be creative and practical at the same time.

Interestingly, the day before meeting Rowles, I sat with a group of San Franciscans interested in my research; they were all members of “At home with growing old,”  a discussion group on aging in the city  ( ).

It was exciting to envision with them San Francisco as the pilot city for changes to improve the condition of older Americans living alone. In the discussion  the knowledge on the shortcomings became a platform for improvement, which was exciting. Most people in the audience agreed with me on the need to work with public institutions to create change. It was exciting to have one member of the SF Long Term Care Planning Committee in the audience and to learn that one founder of the group  is part of that committee as well.

Hurrah to space for change!

Happy 2012 and beyond!



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