Cultural Narratives of Age and Aging (C.IAS, University of Graz)
The research project “Cultural Narratives, Processes and Strategies in Urban and Regional Representations of Age and Aging” led by Roberta Maierhofer focused on the interconnectedness of aging and cultural heritage. It contributed to the already existing research in cultural gerontology by focusing on how an understanding of aging is reached through an interaction with customs and rituals, both regional and urban, expressed as cultural narratives. In addition, these collective expressions were contrasted with personal narratives that juxtapose individual and collective identities. The project is grounded in a theoretical approach developed by Roberta Maierhofer at the beginning of the 1990s. “Anocriticism” is an approach in Age and Aging Studies based on Elaine Showalter’s definition of “gynocriticism,” which enables an understanding of what it means to be “aged by culture” – in Margaret Morganroth Gullette’s term.
 Cultural Narratives of Age and Aging” supported by funds of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Oesterreichische Nationalbank, Anniversary Fund, project number: 15849) led by Roberta Maierhofer.
Research Training Group„Age(ing): Cultural Concepts and Practical Realisations“ (Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf)
The categories „age“ and„ageing“ are currently gaining high relevance in society as well as tremendous attention in different fields of science because of the demographic changes. Age(ing) is not only a biological and social fact but also a cultural one. The Research Training Group „Age(ing): Cultural Concepts and Practical Realisations“ (RTG) distinguishes itself by an integrated concept which interconnects scientific discourses from the arts and humanities, social, legal and medical as well as economic fields of study. RTG thus aims to examine age(ing) as an outcome of knowledge and cultural practice and to develop strategies to deal productively with age(ing). By analysing and reflecting on historic and current discourses, meaning and coherence of life, body and society can be consciously processed and prepared for the implementation of practical applications. However, transdisciplinary research on age(ing) remains the ultimate goal to be achieved by connecting natural, medical, legal, social and cultural scientific discourses.
RGT‘s transdisciplinary research on age(ing) will not only bring together different scientific approaches; it will moreover generate solutions for an ageing society. The programme will analyse different cultural and social concepts and effects of age and ageing in order to subsequently generate practical solutions for the aging society based on its research.
An ageing society demands changes in products and services. Thus the postgraduate students have to be prepared for a business world with mixed levels of age and ageing staff. RTG will meet these tasks by project/practice-oriented forms of teaching and by conveying meta-disciplinary competences, which will help students to develop problem-related solutions.
This project is financed by the Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf.
SIforAGE: Social Innovation on active and healthy ageing for sustainable economic growth (Grup Dedal-Lit, University of Lleida)
The general aim of SIforAGE project was to strengthen the cooperation mechanisms and tools among the stakeholders working along the value chain of active and healthy ageing, with the aim of improving the performance of the European Union competitiveness and growth, through research and innovative products for more and better lives.
The objective was to change minds and attitudes for a new vision of ageing. This new way of understanding ageing has been embraced under the concept of “active and healthy ageing” (AHA), as an inclusive term to framework the transformation of ageing vision.
The specific objectives addressed in the project were:
1. To develop the supporting tools and mechanisms for the Social Innovation Incubator on AHA
2. To engage and empower society and civil society organisations in research on AHA
3. To introduce evidence-based policymaking, through training activities with policymakers, to address future shaping of ageing research programmes and funding schemes
4. To raise awareness among the scientific community on the importance of social responsibility and ethics in ageing research, and offer practical guidance on how to address them.
5. To analyse and improve the existing mechanisms for accessing the market of innovative products and solutions for older people
6. To actively involve the wide range of stakeholders of the value chain and spread knowledge generated along the project duration
The consortium involved in the project was compounded of 20 different partners at EU and International level, representing a remarkable well-balanced consortium with complementary backgrounds and expertise and representing different stakeholders along the value chain of ageing research, from universities, civil society organisations, final users groups, think tanks, public administrations, technology research centers and companies. As member of the European Network in Ageing Studies (ENAS), the Dedal-Lit Reseach Group (UdL) was part of the SIforAGE consortium.
This project secured funding under the EU Seventh Framework Program (Theme: Science in Society, Mobilisation and Mutual Learning (MML) Action Plans: mainstreaming SiS actions in research).
Aging and Gender in Contemporary Literary Creativity in English (Grup Dedal-Lit, University of Lleida)
This project looks into the ways in which aging and gender specificity interact in the literary works of aged women writers, and, at the same time, enquires into works of literary creation that contribute to the questioning of negative constructions and stereotypes of aging and to the emphasizing of the heterogeneity that characterizes the experience of aging. With this revision of traditional, negative and homogenizing constructs, an extensive range of representations of aging is opened up, representations that may be extrapolated and propagated in wider sectors of the present-day population.
Taking these complementary hypotheses as a point of departure, this project analyses the effects deriving from longevity and gender identity through the study of a number of contemporary women authors with an international dimension who have continued to write in their over-60s. In particular, our research will center on the late writing of American, British and Irish women authors representative of advanced and aging societies like our own and it will seek an answer to questions such as: What changes in the writing process of a woman author in her late age? Are thematic or formal changes observed which may also contribute to a new phase of experimentation in late age? Up to what point can these changes differ from those presented in the work of men writers of similar age and situation? In what way can literary creation modify individual and socio-cultural perceptions of the women writers’ identity as a woman in late age? Beyond the literary field, our project will seek to undermine stereotypes of passivity which often have been associated with late-aging and with women. For this reason, our research will also be useful in other fields of study, such as gerontology, psychology and sociology, and in each of these disciplines from the perspective of gender studies.
Financed by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity
The Performance of Age Identities in Online Dating 50 plus (CGD, Maastricht University)
Online dating sites, as ‘marketplaces’ to advertise oneself and to seek desired others, seem to offer an efficient way of finding new love. Contrary to ageist assumptions that stigmatize older people as being asexual, socially withdrawn, and resistant to technological innovations such as computers and the Internet, it is increasingly common for older singles to search for dates and romance via online dating services. In a culture that is pervaded by the discourses of consumerism and ‘successful aging,’ the proactive search for a new partner via a dating service can be considered as a move towards personal fulfillment. Taking the initiative by putting oneself on the ‘single market’ does, however, also come with uncomfortable effects, especially for the older generation. The objectifying nature of online dating requires users to enact attractive versions of their Selves. Youth, associated with fun, energy, sexuality, intensity and hope, is commonly considered to constitute a ‘good selling point.’ Old age in contrast, associated with loss and decline, seems inherently unattractive. For older people, the negotiation of their age becomes a crucial and complicating aspect of their self-presentation.
To scrutinize these dynamics, and the many ways in which age identities are negotiated within the enabling constrains posed by various cultural and technological scripts, this project understands autobiographical acts in online dating as performative. It investigates how dating services (as producers), dating sites (as technological artifact) and older online daters (as users) play part in the culturally situated performance of age identities. Situated in the field of Aging Studies, the project seeks to raise critical awareness for dating and courtship amongst the older generation. In addition, insights about the ways in which older users of dating services engage with the technologies will provide an idea about how this group relates to contemporary technological culture.
This project is funded by the Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University.
Research Group “Aging Studies” at the Center for Inter-American Studies (C.IAS), Graz (AT)
The researchers at C.IAS at the University of Graz focus on the cultural and literary representations the matrix of time and experience, forming the primary research group in cultural gerontology in Austria. Its scholars were the driving force for the establishment of the European Network in Aging Studies. Roberta Maierhofer, the Center’s director and a pioneer in the field of Aging Studies has been working on the cultural representation of age and aging since the 1990s and coined the term “anocriticism” (Salty Old Women, 2003). She is also the academic director of the University Course (MA) in Interdisciplinary Gerontology at the University of Graz. Prof. Maierhofer further set up the peer-reviewed book series Aging Studies (transcript Verlag) in 2009 (with Heike Hartung and Ulla Kriebernegg). The book series has since then been dedicated to the ENAS network and the publications can be found in the publications section. Recent research includes Roberta Maierhofer’s project “Cultural Narratives, Processes and Strategies in Urban and Regional Representations of Age and Aging” (together with Oana Ursulesku and Barbara Ratzenboeck), which aimed to provide on the one hand a systematic approach to representations of age and aging through offering a theoretical guide for the investigation of cultural narratives of aging and on the other hand tried to establish a text corpus through qualitative interviews for insights into life course narratives within the Austrian context. A further project is Ulla Kriebernegg’s recently finished habilitation project “Locating Life: Intersections of Age and Space”, in which she investigated contemporary Canadian and US American cultural representations of old age with a special focus on retirement- and nursing homes.
Participating members: Roberta Maierhofer (Professor and Director), Ulla Kriebernegg (Professor), Barbara Ratzenboeck (Research Assistant and PhD candidate), Oana Ursulesku (Research Assistant and PhD candidate), Eva-Maria Trinkaus (PhD Candidate)
Age and Care Research Group Graz
The Age and Care Research Group Graz is dedicated to sustainable and future-oriented research in Aging and Care Studies and deals with questions around demographic change, health opportunities in old age and the “good life” until the end of life on the basis of inter- and transdisciplinary, interfaculty, and interuniversity collaboration. It is the first interdisciplinary and interuniversity research collaborative on Age/ing and Care studies in Austria.
The Age and Care Research Group Graz is building its research on the longstanding expertise at the University of Graz in the field of aging studies and brings together researchers from various disciplines such as the Humanities, Cultural and Social Sciences as well as from the Legal, Economic and Natural Sciences, Medical Ethics, Nursing Science, Technology and Architecture. The research group acknowledges that sustainable interdisciplinary cooperation is of particular importance and, therefore, focuses on the interdisciplinary promotion of young researchers. Through project cooperation and the affiliation of young scientists, interdisciplinary scientific cooperation is promoted at an early stage and young researchers gain experience in Age/ing and Care.
With the University of Graz, the University of Music and Performing Arts, the Medical University of Graz and the Technical University of Graz as their institutional bases, the research group brings together research and expertise from various fields, bridging disciplinary gaps and fostering interdisciplinary approaches. It is dedicated to the social and cultural construction of images of aging as well as questions in Dementia Research, Medical Ethics, Nursing Ethics and the End of Life. The Research Group bases its research on a concept of care that is not narrowly used in a medical context, but understands ‘care’ according to Joan Tronto’s concept of “Caring Democracy” as a form of living together interdependently, and caring for each other and oneself which brings a democratic-political aspect to the fore. This opens up versatile dimensions of the care aspect which go far beyond the field of ‘care’ in terms of nursing and eldercare. The Age and Care Research Group Graz puts its interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research work at the service of the universities’ social engagement, as academic knowledge is produced and organized in interaction with and through collaboration with relevant social actors. Therefore, the research group assumes responsibility for the social role model function of the four universities in Graz in order to defend its research and practice against ageism, and to recognize the individuality and diversity of aging experiences in academia and society.
Board: Prof. Dr. Ulla Kriebernegg (Chair, University of Graz), Prof. Dr. Andreas Heller, MA (University of Graz), Prof. Dr. Klaus Wegleitner (University of Graz), Prof. Dr. Franziska Großschädl (Medical University of Graz), Prof. Dr. Christa Lohrmann (Medical University of Graz), Prof. Dr. Regina Roller-Wirnsberger (Medical University of Graz), Prof. Dr. Bernhard Gritsch (Medical University of Graz), Prof. Dr. Sigrid Verhovsek (Technical University of Graz), Prof. Dr. Andreas Lichtblau (Technical University of Graz).
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