Accepted paper:

How residents create and resist experiences of home in residential homes for older people


Melanie Lovatt (University of Stirling)

Paper short abstract:

How older people experience feelings of ‘being at home’ through their negotiation of material, spatial, temporal, ideological and social elements of residential homes.

Paper long abstract:

In their promotional literature, residential homes for older people invite potential residents to 'make our home your home' by encouraging them to bring possessions and furniture from their previous home, so that their room will be familiar and comforting to them. Previous research has focused on how personal belongings can help residents make 'successful transitions' to residential accommodation, and help them 'maintain' a sense of individual identity. In this paper, I suggest that such research pays insufficient attention to how feelings of being at home are experienced and created through everyday practices and future aspirations, as well as through continuities with the past. I present findings from my own ethnographic fieldwork in two residential homes for older people in northern England. Interpreting my findings within a conceptual framework of home derived from the work of Mason (1989), which suggests that experiences of home encompass material, spatial, temporal, ideological and social elements, I focus on three key themes: how the built environment and care culture influence residents' use of space and experiences of privacy; the use of material culture in developing and maintaining social relationships within the homes; how the objects in their rooms contribute to residents' feelings of 'being at home'. Conceptualisations of home in older age as being rooted in the past, ignore how homes and identities are dynamic and fluid phenomena. I argue that the residents in this study foster a sense of belonging and feeling at home through ongoing, everyday practices, and future aspirations.

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Ethnographies of the house, values and manners of inhabit