Preview of Anthropology & Aging, Vol 41, no.1 (Feb/March 2020)

Anthropology & Aging Vol 41 no. 1 is nearly ready! Here is a quick preview of some of the exciting contents.
Debating “Good” Care: The Challenges of Dementia Care in Shanghai, China

Yan Zhang

The increasing number of dementia sufferers in China has transformed dementia care from a private issue to a public concern. Nationwide dementia-friendly campaigns have intensified debates about what constitutes “good” care. In response to these campaigns, the Shanghai government proposes a systematic care model, which stresses the need for dementia-care units and professionalization. Non-state actors, however, focus on the relational care model, which integrates western humanitarian ethics with Confucian values. This article employs cultural and structural frameworks to examine why and how a specific form of “good” care is constructed in China. The debates about the establishment of dementia-care units and the professionalization of eldercare enable us to understand how politics shape certain forms of care.

Dancing while Aging: A Study on Benefits of Ballet for Older Women

Rachyl Pines, University of California Santa Barbara

Howard Giles, University of California Santa Barbara

As people age, experiences of depression, loneliness and loss of physical capabilities can emerge. As with previous work on the benefits of music as an intervention for social belonging and valued social identity, dance may increase similar feelings. Although theoretical chapters have been written on dance as it relates to social identity, belonging, and health, little empirical work has been conducted on the benefits of ballet as a recreational activity for older adults. The study reported here is framed by the “communication ecology model of successful aging,” and modestly embellishes this framework based on this study’s findings. Using interviews from 24 American female recreational ballet dancers ranging in age from 23-87 in a small West Coast town, this study investigates, for the first time, how ballet is incorporated into their self-concept and physical, mental, and social experiences of aging. Findings indicate that participating regularly in ballet is a core aspect of most women’s self-concept and means of self-expression. All women discussed how ballet has improved their physical and mental wellness, helping them have a more positive experience of age-related changes. Results showed that most women regard ballet as a very social activity, such that it helps them to feel a sense of community or even kin-like relationships with the other people regularly in class. All women interviewed mentioned that ballet is so integrated into who they are that it is something they hope to do for as long as possible.

Caring through Sound and Silence: Technology and the Sound of Everyday Life in Homes for the Elderly

Carla Greubel, Maastricht University

Literature on sounds inside institutions has shown that sounds are indispensable to the working of hospitals, schools, prisons, and other institutional environments. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in three eldercare homes in Germany this article suggests that the more permanent care context of institutional homes for the elderly compared to a hospital setting is decisive for people’s interpretation of and engagement with sounds. This is true at multiple levels, such as “monitory listening,” the use of “music as a technology of self,” or sounds as a tool of care. In fact, in this long-term care context even silences prompt action. Based on their experience with individual residents, for example, caregivers can direct their monitory listening not only to existing sounds, but also to the silence of expected but absent sounds. Throughout the article, additional consideration is given to the role of the technologies that produce the sounds, showing how in their design and functioning they shape, complement or prevent people’s attention to sound and silence. Finally, I propose that research is needed that goes beyond an understanding of silence as a healing environment for the vulnerable and sick and instead attends to the complexity of this acoustic event within the context of eldercare homes.

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Jason Danely is Past-President of AAGE (2016-18). He is Senior Lecturer of Anthropology at Oxford Brookes University. His book, Aging and Loss: Mourning and Maturity in Contemporary Japan was published in 2014 by Rutgers University Press. He is also editor of Transitions and Transformations: Cultural Perspectives on Aging and the Life Course (Berghahn 2013). From 2011-2015, he served as Editor-in-Chief of Anthropology & Aging, the journal of AAGE.

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