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“There's no excuse for slowing down" : doing gender, race, and class in the third age Lyon, Katherine 2017

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  “THERE’S NO EXCUSE FOR SLOWING DOWN”:  DOING GENDER, RACE, AND CLASS IN THE THIRD AGE   by  Katherine Lyon  M.A., The University of Toronto, 2009  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES (Sociology)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)  April 2017  © Katherine Lyon, 2017   ii   Abstract Within social gerontology, the third age is often imagined to be a time of healthy, prosperous, flexible retirement, yet this interpretation can overshadow the experiences of more marginalized elders. Drawing on over 135 hours of participant-observation and twenty-six semi-structured interviews conducted between January and September 2015 at a Vancouver Neighbourhood House, I explicate how elder volunteers and staff take up the third age discourse through their development and implementation of a Seniors’ Drop-In Program. Drawing on feminist gerontology and the sociology of gender, I trace how these low-income elders “do” gendered and generational conceptions of aging through accessible, affordable, productive activity by replicating and revising the third age discourse mediated through institutional texts targeted toward the “boomer” generation. At the same time, elders develop distinct relationships to and perform different interpretations of these Seniors’ Drop-In activities, particularly the multicultural lunch components, based on their intersecting social locations, including generation, class, race, and gender. This thesis also explores the standpoint of staff in order to demonstrate how the work of senior-driven programming is constrained and enabled by grant-based funding and workload pressures articulated through the discourse of managerial efficiency. In sum, this work’s key findings concern how a senior-driven Drop-In Program in a Neighbourhood House context is coordinated by the complementary and contradictory textually-mediated discourses of the third age, senior-driven programming, and managerial efficiency that elders and staff enact and bring into being in particular interindividual and institutional contexts. This dissertation is sociologically significant in centring age and generation within theories of intersectionality and performativity through an inductive, qualitative exploration of low-income   iii   elders often erased from dominant third age scholarship, and through an examination of senior-driven program planning dynamics within the unique understudied context of a community-based Neighbourhood House.      iv   Preface  This research, including design, data collection, and analysis, is the sole intellectual work of the author and all research was conducted independently. Ethics approval for this research was obtained from the UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board. The Ethics Certificate for this research is numbered H15-00339.       v   Table of contents  Abstract .......................................................................................................................................... ii Preface ........................................................................................................................................... iv Table of contents ............................................................................................................................v List of figures ................................................................................................................................ ix Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................................x Dedication ..................................................................................................................................... xi Chapter 1: The changing structure and meaning of aging ........................................................1 1.1 Situating Spruce House in the history and geography of Neighbourhood Houses ......... 7 1.2 Situating the project and research questions in the literature on gender, aging, and intersectionality ......................................................................................................................... 14 1.3 Chapter overview .......................................................................................................... 49 Chapter 2: The experience and institutionalization of gendered aging: Frameworks for studying the third age ..................................................................................................................52 2.1 Theoretical frameworks ................................................................................................ 52 2.1.1 The discourse and performativity of aging ............................................................... 53 2.1.2 The intersections of class/status, sex/gender and race/ethnicity ............................... 60 2.2 An ontology, epistemology and methodology grounding the third age in elders’ daily experiences ................................................................................................................................ 64 2.2.1 An intersectional analysis of the third age ................................................................ 72 2.2.2 Getting to know my participants ............................................................................... 77   vi   2.2.3 Qualitative interviewing............................................................................................ 82 2.2.4 Participant observation.............................................................................................. 86 2.2.5 Writing fieldnotes ..................................................................................................... 90 2.2.6 Incorporating institutional texts into my analysis ..................................................... 91 2.2.7 Analyzing my interviews and fieldnotes................................................................... 93 2.3 Ethical considerations ................................................................................................... 96 2.3.1 Reciprocity ................................................................................................................ 96 2.3.2 Confidentiality ........................................................................................................ 101 2.3.3 Reflexivity............................................................................................................... 102 2.4 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 108 Chapter 3: The third age discourse and multicultural activity .............................................109 3.1 The life of their times: Historical foundations for “boomer” aging experiences ........ 113 3.2 Armchair travel: Accessing the third age on a fixed income ...................................... 142 3.3 The accessible exotic: Doing multiculturalism in the third age .................................. 152 3.4 Positioning white women elders ................................................................................. 160 Chapter 4: Senior-driven programming and the managerial efficiency discourse .............170 4.1 “[It’s] not for me to put it on, but to support it being done” ....................................... 176 4.2 The discourse of managerial efficiency ...................................................................... 191 4.3 The Seniors’ Drop-In: Senior-driven or funding-driven? ........................................... 208 4.4 Conclusion: Senior-driven programming in the third age .......................................... 219 Chapter 5: “It's not quite as energetic as the Grouse Grind I do”: Elder men and seniors programming ..............................................................................................................................222   vii   5.1 Doing Age ................................................................................................................... 224 5.2 Men doing masculine aging at the House ................................................................... 231 5.3 Women elders and staff making sense of men’s (lack of) participation ..................... 248 5.4 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 258 Chapter 6: Diverse, intersectional experiences of the third age: Contributions, recommendations, and future directions .................................................................................261 6.1 Centring feminist gerontology and the sociology of gender in third age scholarship 261 6.2 Directions for future research ..................................................................................... 268 6.2.1 Interview modifications .......................................................................................... 268 6.2.2 Timing: A limited window into the House ............................................................. 270 6.2.3 Research with more marginalized elders ................................................................ 271 6.3 Recommendations ....................................................................................................... 272 6.3.1 Shifting funding structures ...................................................................................... 272 6.3.2 Transparency and training regarding senior-driven programming ......................... 273 6.3.3 Incorporating diverse elders’ perspectives regarding multicultural programs and activities .............................................................................................................................. 275 6.3.4 Continuing to address and minimize the impact of persistent lifetime inequalities 277 Bibliography ...............................................................................................................................279 Appendices ..................................................................................................................................314 Appendix A - Interview guide (House staff) .......................................................................... 314 Appendix B - Interview guide (elders) ................................................................................... 318 Appendix C - Recruitment letter (staff) .................................................................................. 321   viii   Appendix D - Recruitment letter (elders) ............................................................................... 322 Appendix E - Recruitment poster ........................................................................................... 323    ix   List of figures  Figure 1. Different interpretations of the Seniors’ Drop-In Program ........................................... 50 Figure 2. Image of a quote on the House wall with a desk with brochures underneath ............. 177 Figure 3. Images of text and pictures on House bathroom stalls ................................................ 216        x   Acknowledgements I would first like to acknowledge that I have researched and written this dissertation on the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations – the same territory upon which Spruce House is located. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the elders and staff who shared their expertise, time, and energy to help me learn about the seniors’ programs at the House. This research could not have been conducted without you. The ongoing mentorship, support, and feedback of my supervisor, Dr. Thomas Kemple, and of my doctoral committee, Dr. Becki Ross, Dr. Dawn Currie, and Dr. Gillian Creese, was also indispensable in making this dissertation possible. Additionally, I am appreciative of the support and guidance I received from many UBC faculty members, especially Dr. Kerry Greer, Dr. Neil Guppy, Dr. Sean Lauer, Dr. Silvia Bartolic, and Dr. Wendy Roth as well as my colleagues in the Vantage One program, including Dr. Mark Lam, Dr. Jaclyn Rea, and Amber Shaw. My friends and family have also been invaluable to me throughout this process. Alishah, Vicky, Maria, Aislinn, Ryan, Richard, Diego, and Michaela: Thank you for the laughs, conversations and compassion shared over barbeques, games nights, road trips and our other adventures. Misha: Thank you for your critical insights and wine. I would not have survived without either. Mom, Dad, Jonathan, Madison, and Ryan: Thank you for being there unconditionally. Adam: I am so grateful for your enthusiasm, kindness, patience and support in sharing this process with me, and I look forward to what is to come for us.       xi   Dedication      For Adam, Bunny, and David  1   Chapter 1: The changing structure and meaning of aging   On a rainy Tuesday in the Spring of 2015 I was seated at a circular table with two elder white women and one elder white man1 at the Seniors’ Drop-In Lunch at Spruce House2, a recently renovated Neighbourhood House (NH)3 on Vancouver’s West side. I could hear the chatter of the mostly white women elders finishing their dessert at the five other tables spread across the room. The tables were particularly colourful on this day, with several sheets of bright floral-pattern origami paper placed on each one by the Japanese entertainer who had finished his Japanese circus arts performance at the front of the room moments earlier. Today’s Seniors’ Drop-In theme was “Japanese,” and the kitchen staff and volunteers prepared miso soup and a stir-fry with rice. The Seniors’ Advisory Group (SAG), a council of elder volunteers who worked with House staff to make planning decisions for the Drop-In, had recently decided to incorporate a multicultural theme into the program once per month. The Drop-In took place every Tuesday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and included a meal, a fifteen-minute light aerobics session, and entertainment that usually consisted of music, dancing, a slideshow of an elders’ recent travels, or a presentation by a local seniors’ service provider.                                                    1 Unless otherwise indicated, these are provisional descriptions from my own perceptual standpoint, rather than essentialized categories or assumptions about how people see or identify themselves.  2 This is a pseudonym in order to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of participants. Although I decided to employ pseudonyms for ethical reasons, I experienced ambivalence about this process of concealing contextual and historical specificities and legacies. I selected the pseudonym, “Spruce House” to highlight the institutional Neighbourhood House setting and as a nod to the numerous streets in Vancouver named after trees. That symbols of nature, such as trees, are privileged in the texts assigned within Vancouver (e.g., street signs) may be seen as a reflection of the colonial narrative of Canada as a vast, empty land prior to colonization. I draw upon this imagery to highlight and question the institutionalization of this interpretation of local history.  3 Later in this chapter I will explain in detail the history and functions of Neighbourhood Houses.    2   The Drop-In was well attended this Tuesday, which was common when the weather was poor. On sunny days some of the elders chose to attend other programs and groups that they were part of through the House and local community centres, such as the weekly outdoor walking group. At the table next to mine I could see Emma, the new program coordinator, engaged in conversation with two elder women. In the background at the buffet table, new staff member Elizabeth was clearing dishes with Frank, a recently retired volunteer who owned a free-standing home in the neighbourhood and who helped out at the House five days a week when not travelling.   We were on the second floor of the House in the large multipurpose room with wood floors, high ceilings and large stained glass windows restored from when the space was a Greek Orthodox Church. Across the hall was the entrance to the fifteen subsidized seniors’ independent living housing units owned and managed by the House. The space occupied by the seniors’ housing did not exist prior to the renovations completed in 2014, at which point the House purchased the adjoining lot and expanded their space and their programs. The House now included a reception area, a daycare with an outdoor playground, two kitchens, a rooftop garden and terrarium, a community “living room,” staff offices, a staff lunch room “crash pad,” and several multipurpose meeting rooms and programming spaces that were used by staff, volunteers and community members and that could be rented out for private events.  This seniors’ housing, completed only months before I began my fieldwork, is quite unique to Neighbourhood Houses and is innovative in its distinction from established housing models for old adults, such as assisted living and complex care facilities, retirement communities, cooperative housing, and cohousing. The independent, subsidized seniors’ units   3   also blur the line between a NH as a “house” and a “home” for those who live there and whose involvement with House programs crosses categories of resident, neighbourhood volunteer, and program participant. As I will discuss in chapter two, all fifteen of my elder interview participants live in the subsidized seniors’ housing managed by the House. Overall, the House has thirty-seven old adults in residence. Interestingly, government grants for the seniors’ housing units were pivotal in renovating and expanding the entirety of Spruce House. If the Board had forgone the development of these units, the funding for the many additional NH spaces—such as the multipurpose room where the Seniors’ Drop-In was held—would not have materialized, as I discuss in chapter four.  At my table at the Drop-In was Bridget, a House resident in her late 70s who had moved to Canada decades earlier from the United Kingdom, Joan, a House resident in her late 60s who had immigrated from the United Kingdom more recently, and Rod, a man in his late 60s who had immigrated from Holland in his youth. Unlike Bridget and Joan, Rod lived in co-op housing in the neighbourhood and walked over to the House for the weekly Drop-In. When the Japanese performer came around to our table to instruct us on how to fold our red, purple, yellow, and blue origami paper pieces into cranes, Rod excused himself to get some coffee. He did not tend to participate in the Drop-In activities. On sunny days Rod would usually step out to walk around the block before or after the meal was served. Today he stood by the buffet table with his coffee while Bridget, Joan, and I made origami cranes and giggled at our frequent folding errors leading to nonsensical objects. Joan joked, “I try something new every day, but that doesn’t mean I’m good at it!” Joan and Bridget had not met before even though they both lived at the House. The House residents, who had been selected based on their history with and interest in community   4   involvement and their ability to live independently, had only moved into their units a month earlier and were still getting to know one another. Joan asked if she could have our cranes for a floral center-piece she was making for a dinner party. Even though they were folded imperfectly, she thought the bright colours would go with the leaves and branches she had collected from her walk in the Endowment Lands, a large forested area where she exercised regularly as part of the House’s 55+ Healthy Living program funded by Vancouver Coastal Health. This weekly program involved making a healthy snack in the House kitchen with a staff member, and then heading to an outdoor location chosen by the participants to walk at a brisk pace. Joan encouraged Bridget to come to the program the following week, but Bridget expressed concern that she would not be able to keep up with the group on the walk. Joan suggested some alternatives, such as a free seniors’ fitness study being conducted at a local academic institution where elders worked out while monitored by the research team. Bridget was not sure she would be able to go, given that she spent a lot of time caring for her husband who had a chronic health condition and who was less interested in socializing4.  It was months after this lunch conversation that I came to contextualize Bridget and Joan’s positioning in relation to the “third age,” a term developed within social gerontology in the late 1980s and adapted by marketers targeting the large 55+ demographic and governments                                                  4 Given that my own academic background is in gender and sexuality, I was initially interested in focusing this project on elders’ perceptions of and experiences with intimacy. However, I found that elders more often wanted to discuss their social and cultural activities and health initiatives. For both methodological and ethical reasons (that I discuss in chapter two), the project shifted from an emphasis on intimacy to an emphasis on elders’ negotiating activity in the third age.    5   implementing population health management initiatives for seniors. Although there are multiple definitions of the third age, ranging from a set of national and demographic trends (Laslett, 1989), a phase of the life course (Weiss & Bass, 2002), a social construct (Bass, 2006), a cultural sphere (Katz & Marshall, 2003), and a cultural field (Gilleard & Higgs, 2000, 2005), most emphasize productive, healthy, agentic activity and consumption patterns of the “young old” (Neugarten, 1974) that challenge ageist stereotypes of decline and dependence, particularly within the “baby boomer” generation. In their edited volume Gerontology in the Era of the Third Age (2011, p.4), Carr and Komp suggest that within the current context of multiple working definitions and assumptions, a broad way to distinguish the third age would be a “period of healthy retirement in later life.” Many elders at the House were indeed engaging in productive, healthy activities, reinforced through the House requirement that residents volunteer at least five hours per month at one or more of their programs.  As I became more familiar with third age literature, however, I struggled to see my participants fully reflected within it. Due to their subsidized housing and access to federal and provincial universal and targeted pension and subsidy programs, most House elders were able to meet their basic needs and had free time to pursue their interests. Elders such as Joan, however, had to be quite mindful about which activities they could afford, most often attending public events and programs that were free or low-cost (the Seniors’ Drop-In is only $4.00, for instance). Others like Bridget were encouraged to take part in activities they did not necessarily have the time and mobility for or interest in. I also wondered about the other elders in Vancouver who were not as well connected to affordable housing and community programs and who may have poor health and mobility. Were they part of the imagined third-agers most visible within   6   academic literature, marketing, and government programs? Calasanti and King (2011, p. 72) question whether the third age is in fact a “phantom phenomenon” useful for studying only the most privileged elders who have benefitted from a lifetime of systemic advantage and social privilege.  I began to wonder about the extent to which literature on the third age was describing common trends, or was itself also producing those trends through textually-mediated discourses, that is, through talk and writing disseminated through official texts and taken up by elders and those who support, service, and market to the “55+”. The British Columbia Seniors Guide (2011), produced by the BC Seniors Advocate, describes (or rather prescribes) the unique attributes and habits of current old adults in BC. The following is written under the heading “Seniors redefine the concept of aging”: By 2031, more than 1.3 million British Columbians will be over 65 – almost a quarter of the population. Today’s seniors enjoy increased life expectancy and generally better health than ever before. They are more physically active and more involved in groups and activities in their communities…. It’s all about living a healthy lifestyle, and staying active is the key. The decisions you make every day affect how you age. Only about 30 per cent of the way you age can be explained by biology and genetics. You can actually reduce your risk of chronic disease and disability by staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, living smoke-free, avoiding falls and related injuries, and remaining socially engaged. (2011, p. 13; emphasis added)    7   By emphasizing individual decisions and habits over biology, by shifting from aggregate level data to personal recommendations, and by largely erasing social and environmental conditions, texts such as this responsibilize elder to age in “active,” “healthy” and “engaged” ways.   If the third age is a regulatory discourse at least as much as it is a description of the actual material conditions, interests, and habits of located elders, how might the elders at the House – who are often less privileged than those imagined in third age texts – take up (or undo) this discourse? What role might House staff and House programs play in mediating this discourse? Before further developing and contextualizing these questions I provide an overview of the history and mandate of Neighbourhood Houses.   1.1 Situating Spruce House in the history and geography of Neighbourhood Houses  Spruce House is located in a diverse neighbourhood in the West side of Vancouver. The Neighbourhood House (NH) serves many functions but is concentrated in its geographical reach. The physical NH building takes up two consecutive housing lots on one block. The House has dedicated and multipurpose spaces for a variety of programs for different community groups and needs. The scope of programs and services includes education, support, resource referrals and capacity development for recent immigrants, families, parents, youth, preteens, children, and other community members. Like many other NHs in Vancouver, the House also offers many programs for older adults, the goal of which is to “empower and encourage participation through improved access to information, peer support, healthful activities, and programs that support independence and well-being” (The House, 2016).    8   When I began volunteering at the House in January 2015 I was placed in the Seniors’ Drop-In Program by the volunteer coordinator. This program was in need of additional volunteers at the time, given that the Seniors’ Advisory Group (SAG) and program coordinator had recently decided to expand the program by incorporating multicultural meals. Since the House relies on volunteers to contribute to the running of its programs, I felt it was most appropriate for me to conduct my fieldwork with the seniors’ program most in need of volunteer support—a decision that enabled me to engage in reciprocity with the House itself. I also attended the monthly Seniors’ Advisory Group (SAG) meetings where a group of elder women planned the upcoming Drop-In themes and meals. However, the Seniors’ Drop-In and the Seniors’ Advisory Group are only two of the many seniors’ programs the House manages. Additional programs and resources for seniors include the Seniors’ Resource Centre (SRC), Westside Seniors Hub, Seniors’ Housing, Better at Home, Seniors Links, Seniors Peer Support, Knitting Circle, Seniors’ Art, Osteofit for Life, and Group Outings. With so many programs, many staff members run multiple programs at once and juggle competing community-facing and administrative tasks. Staff were particularly overwhelmed during my fieldwork because they were still adapting to the new House space, expanded program offerings, and increased capacity for participants and volunteers. The House executive director, Lynn, was also on sabbatical which meant some additional managerial and administrative tasks were taken on by staff. The House is relatively small in scale compared to others NHs with only thirty-four staff, all of whom were women at the time of my fieldwork, and twenty-two of whom were part-time. However, as a member of the BC Association of Neighbourhood Houses, it is reliant on funding through the City of Vancouver, the Province of BC, the federal government, and organizations   9   such as the Vancouver Foundation, The United Way, Vancouver Coastal Health, and BC Housing. The House also depends on donations from private businesses and individuals. As I will discuss in chapter four, program funding for Neighbourhood Houses is often grant-based, short-term, and/or non-renewable (Yan, Lauer & Riaño-Alcalá, 2016, p.6) and, therefore, is subject to funders’ regulations and accountability measures that can shape which programs run, how they are delivered, and how they are assessed based on quantitative markers.  Perhaps most interesting for my purposes is that House staff and the texts they write describe attempts to develop and maintain programs based on the input, needs and capacities of people who live in close geographical proximity. The House Strategic Plan, published in 2016, notes that a central goal for the institution is to “provide innovative neighbourhood-based programming that responds to the emerging needs of people, accessible in the neighbourhoods in which they live” (The House Strategic Plan, 2016, p. 1). As a Neighbourhood House, Spruce House focuses on engaging people within the boundaries of a specific local proximity. “Neighbourhood-based” and “place-based” are two terms that staff used interchangeably. Both refer to a model for providing services and building community that is intended to be developed in contextually-specific ways based on the needs of people in a particular time and place. The word “emerging” used in the Strategic Plan suggests that House staff intend to be sensitive to changes over time, based on changing people and neighbourhood conditions. This mandate indicates that programming has the potential to address and remain rooted in the embodied experiences of actual local people (Smith, 2005, p. 90). However, program participants, volunteers, and staff do substantial work to ensure that people’s local experiences become institutionally accessible so that they can be funded and programmed, and, therefore,   10   generalized and standardized in particular ways. “Participant-driven” and “senior-driven” are terms commonly used by House staff in their speaking and writing about programs. Institutional texts written by House staff present some of their programs as being driven or led by program participants and program volunteers. For example, the Seniors’ Drop-in Program where I conducted participant observation from January 2015 to September 2015 is described as a “senior-led program” in the program flyer (The House Programs, 2016). A group of six to ten elder women who constitute the Seniors’ Advisory Group (SAG) meet once per month with the program coordinator to discuss the Seniors’ Drop-In and plan the food and entertainment for upcoming meals. These elders all live in the area, most within walking distance, and some even reside in the subsidized affordable seniors’ housing built right in the House.  The “senior-driven” approach is intended to make elders’ voices central in program planning processes and to highlight and build upon their existing capacities. A senior-driven program planning process allows for elders to collaborate with staff in brainstorming, developing, running and revising programs such as the Seniors’ Drop-In. The ideal of senior-led programming in many ways aligns with principles of third age social science and popular discourse, emphasizing elders’ agency and freedom in pursuing productive activities and leisure of their own choosing (Gilleard & Higgs, 2000, 2005). Senior-driven programs invite elders to become invested in and to feel accountable to the programs they help to develop and implement.  Neighbourhood Houses have a long history of place-based community engagement going back to the Settlement Housing Movement that emerged in England in the mid 1800s. This movement was led by Rev. Samuel Barnett and Henrietta Barnett who sought a way to build connections across the divisions between people from diverse social locations (Sandercock &   11   Attili, 2009, p. 115; Yan, Lauer & Riaño-Alcalá, 2016). Toynbee Hall, one of the first settlement houses, was developed in 1884 in a marginalized neighbourhood in east London. Unlike contemporary Neighbourhood Houses in Vancouver that focus on a wide range of programs and services, including those for seniors and recent immigrants, the primary social issue in London at the time was perceived to be the widening gaps between social classes. At Toynbee Hall upper class men attending university would pay to live among men who were wage labourers. The goal was to create opportunities for dialogue and mutual sharing of knowledge, with university students learning about the challenges faced by the lower classes and the lower classes learning through the students’ research and teaching. This first attempt served as a model for future settlement houses in the United Kingdom that came to offer a variety of programs organized around culture, recreation, health services, employment and advocacy for the working classes (Sandercock & Attili, 2009).   Settlement houses (SHs) spread quickly across Europe and became popular in North America in the late 1800s, first in the eastern United States and then in Canada, and inspired the development of NHs that continued the tradition of community-building (Yan, Lauer & Riaño-Alcalá, 2016). Hull-House, established in Chicago in 1889, was one of the earliest and most well-known US settlement houses. The founders, Jane Addams and Ellen Starr, retained the Barnetts’ vision for the movement rooted in connecting and building bridges between people (Addams, 1961). Although they provided similar services to diverse populations like those in the United Kingdom, SHs in North America faced different population demographics, social anxieties, and migration trends. North American SHs were oriented around immigration issues, working to ensure that European immigrants were able to connect with and adapt to the values of   12   a nation imagined as largely white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant (Yan, Lauer & Riaño-Alcalá, 2016). Sociologist Herbert Gans called this process “reach[ing] the client,” meaning “involving the client in the settlement program and encouraging him [or her] to develop values and behavior patterns favoured by the settlement staff” (1964, p. 3). Programs, resources, and social support have sometimes been geared toward assimilation of recent immigrants, with many houses offering English language classes and some forms of education for immigrant children (Sandercock & Attili, 2009, p. 116). North American SHs, connected to the professionalization of social work in the 1960s, also have a legacy of a “white, middle-class mentality” that has limited their ability to engage with people of colour in certain contexts (Gans, 1964; Yan, Lauer & Riaño-Alcalá, 2016, p.3). Racism embedded within some settlement houses meant that they were not necessarily prepared to accommodate recent black migrants, such as those moving from the South to the North of the US. African-American churches in some states founded settlement houses specifically to address this racialized service gap (Harvard, 2016).  Contemporary NHs are most often embedded in highly diverse communities, such as Vancouver, and continue to work with recent immigrants—now from a greater variety of source countries—and have expanded to include a variety of programs for families, youth, children, seniors and other community members. Spruce House, where I conducted my research, is one of nine NHs currently in the City of Vancouver, most of which are members of the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC (ANHBC). With an operating budget of $19 million in 2016, ANHBC serves more than 100,000 per year through more than 300 different programs and services (ANHBC, 2016). The core mission of ANHBC is to “play a leadership role in building   13   healthy and engaged neighbourhoods by connecting people and strengthening their capacity to create change” (ANHBC, 2016).  In its earliest form, a Neighbourhood House opened in 1938 in the West End of Vancouver (Lauer & Reisz, 2012, p. 2-3). In the 1960s, the West End saw a dramatic increase in young adults moving into the heavily residential area. A 1968 survey of West end residents documented an interest in the development of a new NH to provide local services. The director of the Neighbourhood Services Association at the time, Elmer Helm, suggested that a new Neighbourhood House was needed to “combat youth alienation, family breakdown, and anti-social behavior resulting from poverty and urban life” (Lauer & Reisz, 2012, p. 4). The provincial government also expressed concern about the well-being of the old adults in particular living in the area, and, therefore, agreed to support the development of a Neighbourhood House in the nearby West Side to provide seniors with recreational opportunities. Spruce House began operating in 1974, from a heritage home on the same street between 1968 and 1972. However, this development was met with some criticism from the Neighbourhood Taxpayers Association (NTA)5. The NTA was a well-established community group and was committed to developing “single-family homes in the area, discouraging rezoning for non-residential uses, and protecting property values” (Lauer & Reisz, 2012, p. 4). They were also concerned about the dramatic increase in young adults to the area, labeled “hippies.” Even the Vancouver Mayor at the time declared that the House “would be a ‘crash pad’ for hippies” (p. 5). These debates took place against the backdrop of the 1971 Gastown Riot, marking the clash of broader tensions between                                                  5 This name has been changed so as to protect the identity of the neighbourhood.    14   the city of Vancouver and hippies at the time. However, City and taxpayer anxieties did not materialize and the House remains in operation today. The House has solidified the historical presence of this hippie history with the naming and signage for the staff room, which is lovingly called “The Crash Pad” out of respect for those who contributed to its development. This grass-roots approach to community development still informs house programming development processes today.   1.2 Situating the project and research questions in the literature on gender, aging, and intersectionality   In this dissertation I engage with, critique and build upon research on the third age by drawing on theoretical and methodological frameworks from feminist gerontology and the sociology of gender to explicate my participants’ experiences participating in and volunteering with the Seniors’ Drop-In Program. Through participant observation of the Seniors’ Drop-In, qualitative interviews with House staff and elder residents, and textual analysis of formal and informal House texts, I engage with and centre the intersectional experiences of a group of low-income, largely white women elders who are sometimes overlooked in third age literature focusing on more privileged groups. I also ask how staff interpret and conduct their work with elders in this senior-driven programming context shaped by Neighbourhood House funding structures.  My elder participants are positioned, and position themselves, as simultaneously dependent and independent in their relationship with the House. All of my elder participants (15/15) reside in subsidized rental housing for people over the age of 55 that is owned and managed by the House. Most of my elder participants fall within a common age range. Thirteen   15   of fifteen were born between 1945 and 1954, making them older “baby boomers” (OBB) (Badley et al., 2015). Elders born between 1955 and 1964 (younger “baby boomers” (YBB)), it is argued, experienced a different set of structural conditions throughout their lives. In order to qualify for this subsidized senior’s housing these elders must fit, or be able to be placed within, institutional categories of dependence and vulnerability connected to their class position and age. Based on Household Income Limit (HIL) criteria set by BC Housing, a regulatory body that the House is accountable to, residents must have an annual income that is less than $38,000, with no more than $100,000 in assets. Priority is also given to seniors who are inadequately housed, meaning “homeless, living in temporary shelter / housing, living with family / friends, high rent contribution (more than 30% of income), or current housing does not meet their needs (physical and mental health, social, emotional, cultural, and safety needs)” (The House, 2013). However, my participants were also selected for this housing by House staff because of their perceived ability to manage their independent living and remain active and integrated in social activities in the House and the broader neighbourhood community. They are held institutionally accountable to particular forms of activity and engagement through mandatory unpaid volunteer participation in House programs required as a condition of their housing agreement. How these older adults produce themselves as simultaneously dependent and independent – vulnerable yet actively self-monitoring – in their involvement with House activities is of interest to me given the way aging is being individualized within this neoliberal moment in Canada, as I discuss elsewhere in this dissertation.   This dissertation is guided by five analytical questions—developed gradually and iteratively—that I consider in addressing the standpoint of House elders and staff:    16    How are my elder participants positioned within intersecting axes of privilege and oppression in relation to the third age?   How are elders’ perceptions of productive aging activities shaped by gender, race, class and generation?    How do elders at the House “do” age in ways that intersect with gender, race, class and generation?  How do staff engage with the third age discourse in their senior-driven programming work?   How do Neighbourhood House funding structures constrain and enable staff in their approach to senior-driven programming? In the following paragraphs I discuss and contextualize each of these questions in relation to literature from social gerontology, feminist gerontology, and the sociology of gender.  As I noted earlier, the third age has been conceptualized in multiple ways by various scholars since the late 1980s. Laslett (1989) positions the third age largely as a new phase in the life course. Social gerontologists have mapped out the life course based on an idealized set of typical stages. The first age is characterized by socialization, education and vocational training, the second age by career and family obligations, and the fourth age by decline and dependence. Up until recent decades the life course was thought to consist of a long second age followed by a fourth age for most of the population. However, Laslett argues that with more people retiring earlier, and with prolonged health and activity post-retirement, the duration, accessibility and significance of a third age has increased for many people in Western nations with adequate wealth distributed between the working and retired and with sufficient development of social, cultural and educational programming for all ages. Laslett emphasizes that in order for   17   individuals to maintain productive activities post-retirement, nations must be in a position to provide accessible education for the duration of the life course as well as opportunities for cultural development and leisure. Therefore, infrastructure and investment at the municipal, regional and national levels is relevant to consider along with individual circumstances.  Third age scholarship, while identifying meaningful shifts in the structure of aging, tends to emphasize generational commonalities while decentering systemic interlocking lifetime inequalities within the same generation. As a result, literature on the third age tends to center the experiences of the most privileged – often wealthy white men – over the experiences of a diversity of elders, including poor women, women of colour, and trans* folks6. A primary factor discussed in relation to the third age is the age at which people retire and the length of retirement where individuals can expect to have adequate health and resources to have control over their activities and consumption (Laslett, 1989; Gilleard & Higgs, 2000, 2005). When considered over time, the average age of retirement has fallen significantly. In pre-industrial Europe, for example, retirement was a privilege accessible to only a small fraction of the population (Gilleard and Higgs, 2005, p. 5). Most people worked until they experienced debilitating illness, disability or death. Retirement was not expected or planned for. State-supported funds and programs for older adults gradually developed alongside the rise of the modern wage economy, but until recent decades individuals who relied primarily on this support often faced conditions of relative poverty. In many Western nations’ investment in more robust public and private pensions has                                                  6 Trans* is an umbrella term referring to a spectrum of gender identities for individuals who may not identify with their sex assignment at birth. As none of my participants identified as trans* or as having a trans* history, my data does not reflect the experiences of trans* elders.      18   increased, resulting in a more equitable distribution of wealth between those who are working and those who are retired (Gilleard and Higgs, 2005, p. 6). Conditions for membership in the third age do not solely rely on individual income and wealth, but also on the wealth of the nation in which elders are living, which makes the third age largely a phenomenon within wealthy nations in the Global North. As Laslett explains, “disposable wealth, both of society and of the individual, is of fundamental importance” (Laslett, 1989, p. 100).  The emphasis on retirement from paid work as a primary factor distinguishing the second and third ages is an indication of the androcentric assumptions informing theorizing about this stage of the life course. In this sense, some aspects of third age theorizing are reminiscent of social gerontology’s long history of writing from and about (privileged) men’s experiences. Although the idea of feminist gerontology has been around since at least the 1970s (see Troll, Isreal & Israel, 1977), social gerontology has struggled to take up and centre on feminist thinking, much like sociology has in the same period. Before the 1980s, gerontologist scholars often overlooked the existence and experiences of women elders, while also taking gender for granted as a natural fact not to be problematized through research. Theories and concepts fundamental to social gerontology were developed based on the experiences and activities of men, particularly those who were white, heterosexual and middle-class (Calasanti, 1993), yet this androcentrism was largely invisible at the time to researchers embedded in academic institutions (Kolb, 2014, p. 76). For instance, men’s experiences of retirement from paid labour outside the home were taken to be central to disengagement theory, drawing on the structural functionalist tradition (Cumming & Henry, 1961; Parsons, 1942).    19   Early attempts at developing a broader basis of inclusion primarily involved “adding” older women to research samples to address gender bias. When women were incorporated into aging research, it was within the context of existing theories rather than as part of a reformulation of the assumptions and knowledge generation processes upon which those theories rested (Krekula, 2007). Gender (assumed to align with sex assignment) was typically treated as a binary variable for analysis rather than problematized as a social process and institutionalized system. For example, early researchers identified and described different trends in men’s and women’s labour force participation rates and retirement benefits yet “failed to ask why women’s work histories were more intermittent, why Social Security rewards stable participation, why dependent spouse benefits amount to only half of the retired worker benefit, or whether women and men garner similar workplace returns for similar human capital attributes” (Calasanti, 2009, p. 472). Furthermore, when gender was treated as a variable it was often in order to control for and therefore “eliminate” the impact of gender on other variables (e.g, income), with gender conceptualized as an individual trait rather than a relational social process (Calasanti, 2004, p. 305). In other words, gerontology scholars began making some elements of women’s lives visible but did not draw upon theoretical frameworks for connecting these patterns to processes through which gender is constructed and reified at the micro and macro levels.  This binary approach also lent itself to a focus on differences between men and women, often overshadowing similarities between these groups (as well as potential differences within these groups). “Gender” was also often used as a proxy for “women,” positioning masculinity as an unquestioned, neutral norm and status with women treated as outside and other (Arber & Ginn, 1995; Calasanti & Slevin, 2001; Collinson & Hearn, 1994; Krekula, 2007; McMullin,   20   1995). As Krekula (2007, p. 160) explains, the existence of “research on older women does not necessarily imply that they have also attained a position as the subject in theories. Older women can still be visualized against a male norm, or against a younger norm, and consequently maintain a position as deviant” (my emphasis).  This persistent androcentrism can be seen to be based on the way retirement is understood in third age scholarship. To account for the tendency for women to do more unpaid work in the home than men and participate in the labour force at different rates, some third age scholars note that the end of parenting obligations is similar to leaving paid employment. What is overlooked in this argument is the nature of care work, which often continues beyond the confines of parental care for children under eighteen, particularly with the rising trend of “delayed adulthood” where children live at home for longer or return home after leaving (Myles, 2005). Care work also persists through care for grandchildren, disproportionately taken on by poor, older women of colour, often in the context of prohibitive childcare costs (Calasanti & King, 2011, p. 69). Care for an aging spouse is also done by women more often than men. In fact, men’s access to third age privileges and expectations may be mediated by and dependent on women’s invisible labour: “the ability of some (privileged) men to experience freedom in retirement rest[s] on women’s assumption of reproductive labour and domestic work” (Calasanti & King, 2011, p.71; Calasanti & Slevin, 2001).   Scholars of the third age also emphasize the potential for elders to experience freedom and personal meaning-making to an extent not possible for previous generations. As James and Wink (2007, p. xx) argue, the third age is “the age of opportunity for personal fulfillment” (James & Wink, 2007, p. xx). What often goes unexplored is what this “freedom” means for   21   different elders. Although women and men in some studies have reported experiencing “freedom” during retirement, they defined this freedom in ways that were structured by gender (Calasanti, 1993; Calasanti & Slevin, 2001). In research with 57 men and women retirees in the United States, Calasanti found that for the women in the study, “retirement entailed giving up labour-force activity but maintaining responsibilities for domestic labour” (Calasanti, 1993; Calasanti & King, 2011, p. 70). When women spoke about freedom, therefore, they often described being able to complete domestic tasks at a slower pace and based on a more flexible self-determined schedule, in comparison to their earlier years. Men, on the contrary, emphasized not having to engage in paid work and being able to try new activities, often employing narratives that conform to dominant third age models that are implicitly written from and based on men’s experiences. Furthermore, certain key tenants of the third age—including the emphasis on independence, freedom, and control—may be seen as gendered in that they align primarily with the masculinist side of idealized, gendered binaries.  Life expectancy and the size of the elder population are also factors in the emergence of the third age (Laslett, 1989). Low fertility rates in combination with increased life expectancy have contributed to aging populations in many Western nations. In 2011, the number of Canadians over 65 across Canada was one in seven (Statistics Canada, 2014). Statistics Canada estimates that this number will increase to one in four by 2036. In 2011, the average life expectancy in Canada was 83 years for women and 79 for men, up approximately 7 years since 1970 for women and 10 years for men. Life expectancy, however, differs according to intersecting social locations structured by systemic inequalities. For example, the life expectancy of Métis and First Nations men (73-74 years) and women (78-80 years) differs from that of Inuit   22   men (64 years) and women (73 years), and the average life expectancy among the Aboriginal population is lower than that of other ethnic groups in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2015). Individuals 65 and over constitute 11% of residents in the West side neighbourhood where the House is situated, and 13.6% of residents in the City of Vancouver (Statistics Canada, 2011). Overall, people in highly developed cities like Vancouver are living longer, retiring earlier, and can expect to spend more post-retirement years with functional health, yet these outcomes are not equally distributed. While Laslett acknowledges that the benefits of the third age are less accessible to elders who are women, poor and/or who have health challenges, he dismisses this point by situating his arguments within broader national conditions:  In setting out the conditions permitting and accompanying the emergence of the Third Age7 into a national social structure, we are not required to survey the whole of that structure, in our own country or in any others. Least of all can we be expected to produce a set of expedients which might get rid of class divisions. Nor can we possibly take into account every social circumstance, influence and consequence. The issues of health and fitness, for example, cannot concern us here in spite of the fact that the sick and disabled can scarcely expect to live a fulfilled life in the Third Age. (Laslett, 1989, p. 117)  While Laslett clarifies that individuals are differently positioned in relation to the third age, he implies throughout his work that gender, class and health are private troubles rather than public                                                  7 Throughout this dissertation I refer to the “third age” in lower case. I do so to avoid reifying this term. My aim is to emphasize the ways actual located elders make sense of third age discourses within the context of popular, professional and academic texts. However, when I directly quote the work of third age scholars I retain their chosen capitalization.    23   issues (Mills, 1959), and are somewhat outside the analytical scope of his project. He seems to suggest that intersecting inequalities are relevant yet distinct processes from the changing structure of aging. Sociologists Weiss and Bass (2002, p.3) also emphasize the experiences of privileged elders in their account of the third age, noting that “many in their retirement years have available to them pensions and savings adequate to maintain middle income styles of life….[with the] freedom and resources [to] permit them to enter into any of a very wide range of activities. To an extent, remarkable outside the realm of the very rich, they fashion lives to suit themselves.” This account imagines elders who have amassed enough wealth to live on a middle class income. In taking up the conditions and consequences of the emergence of this third age Gilleard and Higgs also argue that the material conditions for people entering retirement in late modernity have changed, but they further suggest that the structure of class has shifted such that reflexive meaning-making in older adulthood is organized more around life style and consumption patterns than around employment based-identities and social positioning in relation to the means of production. They emphasize the increasing diversity in class position of retired people, thus destabilizing a coherent class identity for those considered elderly (Gilleard & Higgs, 2005, p.35). In other words, “the images and assumptions that working and non-working people have of later life are viewed through the prism of a retirement that has become less homogeneous, less totalizing, and, potentially, less restrictive than it once was” (Gilleard and Higgs, 2005, p. 2). Conceptualizing the third age as a cultural field, Gilleard and Higgs argue that consumption and activity are a primary symbolic currency, or form of capital, for older adults concerned with defining themselves in youthful ways:    24   Third age identities are likely to be elaborated through increasing material consumption, a sense of ‘packing life in’ to a period of adulthood of uncertain length and a wary and ambivalent position in relation to providing for ‘old age’. Third-agers, while acknowledging old age, are likely to prefer to live at a considerable physical and psychological distance from it. (Gilleard and Higgs, 2000, p. 45) While taking a poststructuralist position oriented to aging as a reflexive project, Gilleard and Higgs note that not all elders are equally positioned to access the third age. They clarify, for instance, that people who experience economic and health-related disadvantage, often associated with class, gender, race and ethnicity, have limited access to the third age (2000, p. 136-7). However, they suggest that despite some groups that remain vulnerable, the majority of elders are experiencing a much more affluent and agentic old age than ever before.  While scholars of the third age are often focused on broader processes of social change between generations, they tend to downplay current inequalities within generations. For instance, Gilleard and Higgs (2000, p. 48) argue that the retirement income gap is closing and will continue to close as there is less distinction between men and women in regard to factors such as years of work and average pay, thus “erod[ing] those vertical inequalities associated with gender.” However, their analysis of gender is somewhat limited. Under the subheading ‘Gender and retirement’ in their book, Cultures of Ageing: Self, Citizen and the Body (2000), they focus on women, thus equating women with gender as has been common within the history of gerontological research. They note that although wage inequalities are decreasing, the “duty older women feel toward maintaining the domestic economy” – including tasks such as housework, maintaining family ties, and caring for partners – can constrain their participation in   25   the third age (2000, p. 49). That this section makes women explicitly visible, while the rest of the book does not make men explicitly visible, suggests that they are to some degree taking the experiences of (healthy, white, wealthy) men for granted. Furthermore, that feminized unpaid care work is seen as limiting access to the third age suggests that their engagement with the concept itself is based on androcentric assumptions to which they have “added” women.  In light of existing scholarship on the third age, one of my analytical research questions for this project is: How are my elder participants positioned within intersecting axes of privilege and oppression in relation to the promises and expectations, benefits and privileges, of the third age? I argue that intersecting lifetime inequalities structured by race, gender and class persist and must be centered in research on the third age (Calasanti & King, 2011; Calasanti & Slevin, 2006). In doing so, I build upon a tradition within socialist feminist and feminist political economy theories of aging that flourished in the 1990s. Socialist feminists of aging initially focused on the role of patriarchy in shaping relations of production and reproduction, with an emphasis on the ways gendered (and racialized) organizations shape the distribution of wealth and therefore men’s and women’s retirement experiences, often problematizing the lack of status and compensation for unpaid labour in the home (Calasanti & Zajicek, 1993, p. 123). Like this thesis, socialist feminism is informed by standpoint scholarship given the need to produce new concepts and theories within social gerontology that are based on and reflect women’s often marginalized experiences (Smith, 2005; Hill Collins, 1986, 1990; Hartsock, 1983). As I will discuss in depth in chapter two, standpoint as a method of inquiry can enable researchers to generate theories and concepts based on the experiences of diversely located people rather than the experiences and perspectives of a minority of often white, wealthy   26   men within academia and other institutions producing categories and managing knowledge claims (Smith, 1990, 1999, 2005).  More recently social feminists of aging have embraced an intersectional lens, with scholars in this tradition increasingly unpacking the way race and sexuality inform gender and age (Kolb, 2014). Building on the intersectional theorizing of Crenshaw (1989) and Hill Collins (2005, 1990), socialist feminists working in gerontology demonstrate how age is a social location intersecting with and informing other axes of power and privilege within systems of inequality (Calasanti, 2009, p. 174; Calasanti & Zajicek, 1993; Kolb, 2014). Work in this area has focused in particular on how the gendered structure of the idealized nuclear family (Stoller & Gibson, 2004), the labour market, and the welfare system (Estes, 1991) inform the diverse experiences of elder women and men. For instance, the heteronormative, classed, and gendered assumption that women remain dependent on men within the home was fundamental to legitimizing Social Security benefits in the US in the 1980s and 1990s that were distributed unequally between men and women (Calasanti & Zajicek, 1993, p. 125; Moon, 1990; Rodeheaver, 1987). Furthermore, Calasanti and Slevin (2001, p. 107) found that although African American women exhibit more steady labour force participation than white women, the lower wages they receive still leave them in a position with less retirement income. This intersectional approach has created space for the study of privilege as well as oppression in shaping aging experiences.    Feminist political economists take a similar structural approach to consider how these capitalist relations of production shape the experiences of women and racial minorities in particular. Feminist political economy of aging theories frame gender as a relational construction structured by dominant institutions, with an emphasis on the organization of capitalist economies   27   in relation to systems of power (Estes, 1979, 2006). While the socialist feminist approach highlights intersectional locations of both privilege and oppression, political economist feminists emphasize the structural creation of vulnerability and dependency through cumulative disadvantage. Many of these disadvantages accumulate throughout the life course based on the feminization of poverty and women’s relationship to masculinist codes of governance in modern nation states (Brown, 1995; Estes, 2006, p. 85; Kolb, 2014, p. 82; Orloff, 1993). Some political economy of aging theories are informed by yet also critique Dowd and Bengtson’s (1978) double jeopardy thesis addressing multiple oppressions. This thesis holds that prejudice and discrimination are additive for individuals who are members of multiple minority groups. For instance, to be elderly and an immigrant would be double jeopardy, while being an elderly immigrant woman would be triple or multiple jeopardy (Ovrebo & Minkler, 1993, p. 294). This focus on the structural production of disadvantage, while intended to highlight multiple social inequalities, has been called the “misery” approach. It can support the assumption that “women’s ageing [is] more problematic than men’s”, thus potentially restigmatizing older women and ethnic minorities by shaping research questions only around the challenges of diverse experiences of aging (Krekula, 2007, p. 161). Feminist gerontologists taking up the lens of intersectionality critique the double jeopardy thesis, noting that it takes an additive approach to oppression and does not account for differences and interactions between structures of oppression and privilege.  It is from an intersectional feminist perspective that I problematize Gilleard and Higgs’ (2000) assertion that, because the wage gap is getting smaller, it is not a primary issue to be addressed in third age scholarship. Persistent inequalities still remain that fundamentally shape   28   income, wealth and health disparities in retirement. These are, in fact, the inequalities that shape the lives of the “baby boomer” generation who tend to be the focus of Gilleard and Higgs’ work. In 2011, average earnings for all earning women in Canada were $32,1000, which is 66.7% of the earning of all earning men (Statistics Canada, 2013a). Among full-time workers the gender wage gap is 72%, with women earning an annual average of $47,300 in comparison to men’s $65,700 (Statistics Canada, 2013b). This gap holds even when education levels are taken into account (Statistics Canada, 2015). The gap widens when the intersections of gender and race are considered. For instance, in 2005 visible minority women working full time for the full year earned only 91% of what their white women counterparts earned and only 63% of what their white men counterparts received (Block & Galabuzi, 2011, p. 4). It is important to note, however, that access to full time, full year employment is itself racialized and gendered. When considering overall income, as opposed to amount and duration of employment, visible minority women earned 55.6% of the income of white men in 2005 (Block & Galabuzi, 2011, p. 4). Aboriginal women encounter a similar pattern as recorded by the 2006 Census: “For an Aboriginal woman to earn as much as a non-Aboriginal man she would need to work two days for every one of his” (Lambert, 2010, p. 5; Statistics Canada, 2015). These findings are part of a larger trend in which the financial benefits of economic growth are unevenly distributed along gender and racial lines. Consider, for instance, that from 2000 to 2005 the average income of white Canadians grew 2.7% but the average income of visible minority Canadians declined by 0.2% (Block & Galabuzi, 2011, p. 4). Trans* people, who face above average rates of discrimination and unemployment, and below average annual incomes, are also further erased through the ways income statistics are collected   29   and reported (Bauer et al, 2010; Ryan, 2003). Research about the gender wage gap and its implications for inequalities in old age can therefore perpetuate the assumption that gender and sex correspond in linear, binary ways that are organized and experienced as stable throughout a person’s life.   Persistent disparities in income that ultimately shape retirement inequalities are due to a variety of factors. Women’s labour force participation, a key factor in annual income, has grown substantially since WWII yet has stalled since the late 1980s (Guppy & Luongo, 2015, p. 245). Guppy and Luongo argue that this trend will likely continue unless substantial policy changes are adopted, such as universal child care. Although occupational sex segregation decreased from 1991 to 2011, this is largely due to women entering male-dominated jobs (while struggling to obtain the highest positions in these fields) (Guppy & Luongo, 2015, p. 246). Industries and jobs that are most accessible to women and visible minorities remain feminized and/or devalued. Furthermore, there is often an overrepresentation of visible minority men and women in jobs that tend to be “precarious, insecure, low-paid… with few or no benefits” (Block & Galabuzi, 2011, p. 10). All of these factors shape how retirement is organized for privileged and marginalized groups.  Women’s lower incomes are directly tied to the lack of visibility and value placed upon unpaid care work in the home (Calasanti & Zajicek, 1993). The average hourly earnings of women with children has been 12% lower than women without children since 1993 (Statistics Canada, 2009; Zhang, Xuelin. 2009.) The gendered structure of organizations persists based on the imagined life course of the “social man,” the salience and hegemony of which relies upon continued unpaid domestic work (Acker, 1990). The experiences and outcomes of the “second   30   shift” remain an individualized problem, one consequence of which is that women are more likely to work part time (Hochschild, 1989). The demands for women’s unpaid care work in the second age echo those of women in the third age who are more likely to care for partners and grandchildren, to maintain family ties, and to sustain the daily operations of the home – tasks that are often excluded from interpretations of “active” aging within the third age (Gilleard & Higgs, 2000, p. 49).   The effects of the wage gap over the course of a lifetime are compounded in retirement given that women are able to contribute less to pension funds and retirement savings plans. Although 47% of contributors to the Canada/Québec pension plans are women, their average annual contributions are only 82% of men’s annual contributions (based on data from 2007) (Statistics Canada, 2015).  The percentage of women contributing to Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) increased from 45% in 2000 to 47% in 2008. However, the median RRSP contribution for women in 2008 was only $2,240.00 compared to men’s median contribution of $3,220.00 (Statistics Canada, 2015).  Put another way, in both 2000 and 2008, women’s RRSP contributions constituted 39% of the total contributions whereas men’s contributions made up 61%.  Divorce and widowhood also have a greater negative impact on long-term after-tax family income for women than men (Martin-Matthews, 2011; Statistics Canada, 2012). According to measurements based on replacement rate – meaning the extent to which family income during “working years” is replaced by other sources of income in retirement – divorced women had the lowest replacement rate, followed by widowed women. On the contrary, divorce had little impact on men’s replacement rates, and widowerhood actually increased replacement   31   rates for middle and high-income men. It is worth noting, however, that the effects of divorce and widowhood on the replacement rate for women in the bottom quintile were reduced by public pension income (the existence of which is a defining feature of the third age in countries like Canada), whereas women with middle and high-incomes saw more substantial income declines.    These and other factors are evidence and outcomes of the systemic inequalities that can make women, particularly visible minority and gender non-conforming women, more vulnerable in old age. The persistence of gender and racial inequalities can be masked by the overall reduction in poverty for people over 65 in Canada that has occurred in recent decades. From 1976 to 2008, the incidence of low income for elder men and women fell from 29% to just below 6% due largely to increases is targeted government funds for seniors (Statistics Canada, 2015). However, women over 65 are still twice as likely as men over 65 to be living with low income after tax8. In 2008, just 4% of men over 65 were low income in comparison to 8% of women (Statistics Canada, 2015). Access to third age benefits relies not just upon income and wealth, but health as well. Many definitions of the third age assume high levels of mobility and physical activity. Although health care technologies and accessibility have improved in the latter half of the twentieth century (including the availability of immunizations and legal birth control), health and health care systems are shaped by gender, race, and class (Veenstra, 2011, 2009; Wu, Noh, Kaspar,                                                  8  Low income is calculated based on Canada’s Low Income Cut-Off (LICO), where low income constitutes 63% of after-tax income spent on necessities.   32   Schimmele, 2003; McDonough & Walters, 2001; Spitzer, 2005; Humphries & van Doorslaer, 2000). Grafova, McGonagle, and Stafford (2007, p. 34) document that wealth and health are positively correlated. Poverty and economic marginalization have profound effects on health status and interactions with health care systems, particularly for Indigenous people who face systemic barriers in accessing the health care they require (Tang & Browne, 2008; Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2004; Adelson, 2005). 51% of the Aboriginal population in Canada aged 75 and over has three or more chronic conditions, whereas only 23% of non-Aboriginal people in this age group experience the same number of chronic conditions (Wilson, Rosenberg, Abonyi & Lovelave, 2010, p. 369). Visible minority Canadians report lower perceived satisfaction and quality of medical care than white Canadians and are less likely to receive treatment upon reporting certain conditions (Lasser, Himmelstein, & Woolhandler, 2006, p. 1303). LGBTQ elders also report concerns about accessing medical services and experiencing discrimination and lack of recognition for their relationships and identities from health care professionals (Addis et al., 2009; Brotman, Ryan & Cormier, 2003; Brotman et al., 2009; Butler, 2004; Hughes, 2009). Lack of training for medical professionals and care providers to appreciate LGBTQ experiences and needs is a primary factor (Hughes, 2009; Qmunity, 2014). Health care inequalities cumulate over the life course, leading trans* elders to be at higher risk for disability, depression, stress, and poorer physical health (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2013, p. 488). Overall, racial, sexual and gender minorities are more likely to enter the third age with poorer health, or may skip the third age altogether, depending on how it is defined (Brown, 2009; Calasanti & King, 2011, p. 79).    33   As Calasanti and King (2011, p. 68) argue, what is required is “less attention to the construction of voluntary retirement as lifestyle and more attention to the constraints that prevent so many people from exercising such an option.” On the one hand, third age scholarship provides a counter-narrative to interpretations of old age as a time of dependence and vulnerability, thus challenging the “misery approach” within feminist political economy perspectives as well as expectations of elder disengagement characteristic of older functionalist disengagement models (Parsons, 1942). Third age scholarship, however, also has a tendency to overemphasize elders’ agency while overlooking the realities of persistent social inequalities. Laslett (1989) expresses a clear commitment to challenging ageist stereotypes in the interest of redefining aging for the “young” old. In making his arguments, however, he minimizes and individualizes other social factors and thus becomes complicit in reproducing the very social inequalities that lead more marginalized older adults to have less control over their aging. Gilleard and Higgs (2005, p. 3) distance themselves from Laslett’s activist orientation and explicitly state that their “intention is not primarily to study inequality in later life.” Their emphasis on the third age as a cultural field shaped by generational consumption patterns, expanded market segmentation, and the changing nature of class within late modernity (Gilleard and Higgs, 2000, 2005; Gilleard, Higgs, Hyde, Wiggins, and Blane, 2005), though sociologically sophisticated, represents a particular set of analytical goals and scholarly commitments (Calasanti and King, 2011). As Holstein (2011, p. 233) notes, “organizing efforts in the pursuit of social justice remain sidelined in these [third age] discourses, and gerontologists seem strangely unconcerned with how their agendas build upon a lifetime of relative advantage.” The fundamental assumptions about the nature and purpose of research that inform my work, including how research is always political and contextual,   34   motivate me to emphasize how persistent inequalities in the third age are structured and experienced for a diversity of elders. My epistemological position, which I detail in chapter two, is informed by feminist standpoint scholars who seek to generate politically useful knowledge rooted in and accountable to the experiences of differently located people – often groups who are further silenced and misrepresented by dominant academic concepts (Smith, 1990, 1999; Harding, 2004, 2009, p. 195).  The discourse of the third age has emerged through social science scholarship but is also taken up within government population management initiatives and professions targeting the sizeable market of individuals entering advanced adulthood. Canada has an aging population that will accelerate between 2010 and 2031 as members of the “boomer” generation continue to reach 65. Tracking the growing consumer base of older adults, a variety of industries, including financial, cosmetic, medical, leisure, and real estate, have “recast later life as an active, youthful commercial experience,” while downplaying daily material realities of aging structured by systemic inequality (Katz & Marshall, 2011, p. 5; Meyrowitz, 1984). As such, the third age can be understood as a textually-mediated discourse coordinated by the writing and speaking of institutionally embedded experts, and taken up in particular ways by actual located elders. Social scientific conceptions of aging have shifted alongside developments in marketing and professional services:  The popular media has marketed books describing ways third-agers can engage in more “purposeful” living (e.g., Sadler, 2000). A variety of websites, books, and companies have become dedicated to providing information (and marketing) to healthy individuals in the later stages of their careers and the early stage of   35   retirement for whom the term “Third Age” resonates better than other language associated with later life such as “senior” or “older adult. (Carr & Komp, 2011, p. 3).  This new phase of the life cycle taken up through a variety of popular texts is imagined to be associated with personalized choices regarding leisure, consumption, and paid and unpaid labour (Marshall, 2011). Individuals are expected to make a smooth transition to this stage of older adulthood, retaining many elements of independence and self-regulation associated with middle age (Katz & Marshall, 2003). Although the third age is most accessible to those with disposable income, health and mobility, and ample leisure time, it must also be understood as a regulatory discourse that elders with less access are still held accountable to. This emergence of the third age is embedded in processes of individualization occurring within the context of neoliberalism in Canada. Neoliberalism is typically seen as a new form of governance, deeply entrenched within Western nations, that coordinates many dimensions of the social according to the logic of economic and political rationality connected to the shrinking governmental safety net and privatization of services. Aging for the “baby boomers” is shaped by this larger project in the West through which individuals participate in producing themselves and others as autonomous and self-managing (Gill and Scharff, 2011, p. 6). Conceptions of aging within neoliberalism have been studied in a variety of ways, all emphasizing the greater attention placed on individual accountability. Professional discourses position elders as responsible for self-managing their aging bodies (Rudman, 2015), often through constant social activity (Ekerdt, 1986, p. 243; Moody, 1988, p. 238) and idealized athleticism (McGowan, 2013) within the context of government population health management initiatives and professional anti-aging   36   services. Elders are also encouraged to cultivate youthful sexual function contingent on penile-vaginal penetration and penile ejaculation, often necessitating medical interventions (Katz & Marshall, 2003). Katz (2000, p. 148) argues that “we are witnessing today a new mandate to encourage people to be “retirement ready” and “retirement fit” by allying their active subject efforts at maintaining autonomy and health with the wider political assault on the risks of dependency.” Individuals are ultimately compelled to minimize their risk and dependence in the face of a shrinking safety net and anxieties about aging populations as a drain on state resources. This third age discourse compels individuals to “gro[w] older without aging” (Katz & Marshall, 2003, p. 5).  It is within this social context that my low-income, white, mostly single and/or divorced elder women participants make sense of their daily lives. Although scholars such as Gilleard and Higgs attempt to minimize the compulsory moral implications of the third age (in comparison to the work of Laslett), for my participants aging is still very much structured by this moral imperative through programs at the House and other social services within the province of British Columbia. For example, The British Columbia Seniors Guide (2011), produced by the BC Seniors Advocate is heavily focused on health and activity. Under the heading “Your Lifestyle,” readers are prompted to answer the following questions:  How do you plan to stay physically active as you get older? How will you stay connected with your friends, family and community? Have you considered sharing your skills and knowledge as a volunteer for an organization or cause that’s important to you? Have you thought about lifelong learning and what new skills or knowledge you want to gain? What recreational opportunities do you   37   enjoy that can help you stay active and engaged in your community? (2011, p. 12).  These questions are not rhetorical. Space is allocated on the page for readers to respond in writing, compelling them to think, write and act in relation to the organization of the text. The questions themselves emphasize individual decision making and responsibility for maintaining healthy, active living.  Shifting beliefs about dependency are fundamental to unpacking changes in how aging is understood in the third age. In their genealogy of the concept and practice of dependency in the United States, Fraser and Gordon (1997) argue that dependency has become stigmatized as an individual moral and psychological characteristic in Western nations where equality and meritocracy are held as core values. Whereas in industrial societies some forms of dependency continued to be treated as a natural and essential feature of hierarchical social organization (epitomized by the ‘slave’, ‘colonial native’, and the ‘housewife’), the removal of formal legal barriers to economic and political participation predicated on new conceptions of nation-state citizenship and the declining ideal of the family wage meant that dependency became individualized in postindustrial nations. There is, “no longer any self-evidently “good” adult dependency in postindustrial society. Rather, all dependency is suspect, and independence is enjoined upon everyone” (Fraser & Gordon, 1997, p. 135). In this context, the lingering visibility of dependence is essentialized and stigmatized as a feature of feminine and racial inferiority.  This historical shift in the positive valuation from dependence to independence has implications for the regulation of older adulthood that are captured through the rise of the third age discourse. Dependency is no longer seen as a structural feature, but a matter of individual   38   character for both adults and older adults (excluding adults in the fourth age where narratives of decline dominate). The responsibilizing conceptions of the third age produced through professional and academic texts remove focus from structural constraints and place emphasis on the ‘senior’ as an accountable, independent, self-regulating citizen. While prior narratives of old age have assumed dependence and vulnerability as an acceptable and expected component of aging, the discourse of the third age firmly roots individuals in their 50s, 60s, and 70s as within the expectations of citizenship common to the rest of the adult population. While in previous decades stages of older adulthood were not as clearly distinguished, the marketing and professions surrounding and arising with the “boomers” have constructed a third age that is distinct from the fourth age associated with substantial age-related health challenges and gradual decline. In some ways, third age narratives position elders as generationally privileged with substantial supports in place through private and public funding, thus further stigmatizing elders who do not or cannot conform to the model of productive, independent aging (Grenier, 2012). In many ways the third age model minimizes structural limitations and positions the individual as an empowered and accountable decision-maker responsible for avoiding any forms of dependence. As a result, the third age discourse can be seen not just as an attempt to describe shifting structural conditions shaping aging, but also as a discourse informing what “successful” aging should look like. As scholars in disciplines such as sociology, social gerontology, social work and nursing create new ways of speaking and writing about aging, they also produce and become part of  “a whole machinery for speechifying, analyzing, and investigating” older adulthood that surveil, discipline, and produce the ‘senior’ in particular ways (Foucault, 1980, p.   39   27, 32). However, it is important to note that some critical gerontologists also self-reflexively identify and critique this process (see Katz, 2005).  Given that many seniors’ programs at the House, and the associated grants that fund them, are based on the promotion of healthy, productive, active aging, another key research question informing this dissertation is: How do staff engage with the third age discourse in their senior-driven programming work? The notion of “active” aging is fundamentally intertwined with the third age discourse. Accounts of the third age in the late 1980s and 1990s were often based on the assumption that activity and productivity were essential to successful aging (Laslett 1989; Young & Schuller, 1991). The value of activity, whether physical, social, or based on the exploration of personal interests, has generated a core debate within social gerontology since before theories were formalized within the field (Katz, 2000). As Katz (2000, p. 135) notes, “the association of activity with well-being in old age seems so obvious and undisputable that questioning it within gerontological circles would be considered unprofessional, if not heretical”. Positive aging has been associated with a variety of aging models, with various terms being used sometimes interchangeably in gerontology literature, including “successful,” “productive,” “active” and “healthy” aging (Estes, 2011; Ranzijn, 2010; Ranjzin & McMahon, 2006).  Successful aging is associated with gerontological research and government initiatives to enhance health outcomes and decrease health risks among aging populations (Palmore, et al 1979; see also Pruchno, 2015). Rowe and Kahn (1997) define successful aging with reference to three components: low likelihood of disease, high physical and cognitive function, and active engagement. These approaches, though accounting for both   40   individual habits and social and environmental factors, tend to emphasize individual lifestyles without fully addressing the structural barriers that limit elders’ ability to achieve intended health outcomes. Holstein and Minkler (2003) argue that Rowe and Kahn’s (1997) operationalization of successful aging is most relevant for elders with a lifetime of cumulative advantage, thus positioning already marginalized elders within a narrative of personal failure (Braun, Browne, Ka’opua, Jung Kim & Mokuau, 2013).  Productive aging, a later adaptation of the frameworks of successful aging, was intended to dislodge stereotypes of elders as a drain on resources, and to focus on how old adults can make economic contributions at the national and community level. Definitions of productive aging tend to emphasize elders’ activities that allow them to produce goods and services, with some interpretations prioritizing paid activities (Morgan, 1988) and others incorporating a broader range of paid and unpaid work that creates value, including housework, volunteering, childcare and assistance to others (Herzog, Kahn, Morgan, Jackson, Antonussi, 1989; Bass, Caro, Chen, 1993; Bulter and Schechter, 1995). Some definitions emphasize elders’ development of the capacity to produce useful outputs, along with the outputs themselves (Bass, Caro, Chen, 1993). Common to all of these definitions is the recognition that old adults are an important national and community resource, that these activities can enhance elders’ sense of achievement, and that elders are capable of meeting their own and others’ needs (Estes, 2001). Much like the successful aging model that individualizes health outcomes, the productive aging model often overlooks the structural conditions that limit more marginalized elders’ ability to engage in these versions of productivity. More recently “active” aging has become a more popular term,   41   combining elements of productivity, health and independence (Ranzjin, 2010; Walker, 2002). Active and productive aging models have been critiqued for their emphasis on individual accountability and responsibility “for the costs and consequences of unproductive aging” (Estes, 2001, p. 27). These concepts may be seen as an extension of market ideology into aging processes through which elders and their activities are commodified and evaluated according to their utility for capitalist expansion (Estes, 2001). For example, Komp (2011, p. 55-56) suggests that welfare states should consider economic outputs (state costs related to pensions, social assistance, and support for productive activities) against third agers’ valuable inputs, including their private contributions to social assurances (e.g. private insurance plans) as well as their value-added activities such as volunteering, informal caregiving, engagement with social interest groups, and participation in democratic political processes. By framing elders’ activities in this manner, the productive aging model ultimately shifts the onus from the state and the community to the individual, and prioritizes production and economic growth over human needs and circumstances. Any failures to age productively and successfully are seen as individual failures, which can be particularly harmful for elders with chronic health issues or disabilities (Holstein, 1992). The individualization of active aging is particularly problematic given that access is mediated by a variety of social and environmental factors. Elders who experience various forms of marginalization may have less access to the education, exercise facilities, seniors’ centres, social networks, transportation means, and   42   financial resources that are required to engage in active aging (Minicuci & Noale, 2005; Ranzijn, 2010; van Heuvelen, Hochstenback, Brouwer, de Greer, & Scherder, 2006).  In addition to feminist political economy critiques of productive aging models, it is important to question the utility of these prescriptive aging models, given that only a minority of the population can achieve them (Depp & Jeste, 2009; Ranzijn, 2010) and given that they do not align with how the majority of old adults assess and conceptualize their own positive aging criteria (Townsend, Godfrey, & Denby, 2006). Whether aging is conceptualized as successful, productive or active, these terms are less a description of current conditions and experiences and more a “prescription for what is approved, acceptable, normative and ‘good’ (Ranzijn, 2010, p. 717).  Active aging models not only deviate from what is seen as attainable and desirable by actual elders, but they are also based on and perpetuate ethnocentric conceptions of ideal aging (Braun et al., 2014). Definitions of active aging are predicated on a Western, individualistic worldview which “values independence, autonomy, and self-reliance” (Ranzjin, 2010, p. 720). Australian Aboriginal elders, for example, report that these values do not align with their worldviews “characterized by interdependence, mutual reliance, reciprocity and an intricate kinship system” (Ranzjin, 2010, p. 720). Indigenous elders facing systemic inequalities may not only have less access to the resources needed to achieve these idealized versions of aging, but may find them to be disconnected from what fulfilling aging means in their own cultural context. That various active aging policies and programs are implemented by colonial governments suggests that active aging models should be studied as colonial processes of management. This is a particularly salient   43   insight given that the Musqueam Indian Reserve No.2 inhabited by members of the Musqueam First Nation falls within the House catchment area. One powerful contrast between Western and Aboriginal conceptions of aging can be found in the treatment of death. While many Western cultures emphasize youthful vitality, as exemplified by how the anti-aging industry has expanded into more and more facets of life (Calasanti & King, 2005), many Aboriginal cultures embrace the circle of life-death-life, which changes how aging is perceived and experienced (Ranzijn, 2010). Death in this context “is not something to be feared and fought again, and ageing is accepted as an important part of the circle of life” (Ranzijn, 2010, p. 721). Elders at the House are overwhelmingly white of European descent. That few Indigenous elders engage with House programs raises questions not just about access, but about the dominant cultural frameworks that inform House seniors’ programs, often hooked into government grants at the municipal and provincial levels. Given that successful, productive and active aging models tend to be defined in ethnocentric ways, I ask how perceptions of productive aging activities at the Seniors’ Drop-In, sometimes organized around multicultural food and entertainment themes, are interpreted by elders based on race and ethnicity.  The question of how elders make sense of third age discourses in the context of the House is particularly intriguing given that my participants are uniquely positioned in relation to the third age. As mostly low-income elder white women living independently in subsidized housing, they are privileged with regard to generation, race and education yet marginalized based on gender and class. They have the time, flexibility and health to engage in fulfilling pursuits associated with this life stage, largely due to their access to subsidized housing, government   44   funds targeted for seniors, and public health care, yet must make careful choices about activities, entertainment and consumption given that their fixed incomes leave them with little disposable income.  My approach to the third age as a discourse is informed by the work of poststructuralist feminist gerontologists who focus on role of discourse in producing aged and gendered subjectivities involving multiple, fragmented masculinities and femininities. Drawing on queer studies (Butler, 1990; Seidman,1997), scholars in this area demonstrate how “gender may be (per)formed as ‘subjectivities’ and ‘subject positions’ in and as discourse(s)” (Hearn & Wray, 2015, p. 204). Age is taken up in relation to gender, race, class, and sexuality as a “social construct that is unstable, fluid and subject to regulation through power/knowledge discourse” (Hearn & Wray, 2015, p. 204). Part of this work involves deconstructing gender and age binaries that have pervaded social gerontology, noting how genders, sexualities and life stages are shaped and taken up differently over time, place, and generation as the life course itself is acknowledged as fluid and negotiated (Spector-Mersel, 2006)9. Given that scholarly attention to discourse can in some cases decenter the embodied and material, there has been a turn toward examining the material processes and implications of gendered aging discourses (Clarke & Griffin, 2007; Laz, 2003; Twigg & Martin, 2015). Research on ‘active, ‘positive’ and ‘productive’ aging often                                                  9 For instance, Brown (2009) and Cronin and King (2010) problematize rigid life course stages constructed insofar as they are based on marriage, reproduction and grandparenting that implicitly maintain heteronormative assumptions within research on older adults. Spector-Mersel (2006) also considers lifespan time, with an emphasis on the ways different idealized masculinities are ascribed to different periods in men’s lives. Feminist and queer work on aging informs and engages with the emerging field of cultural gerontology, characterized by a shift in emphasis from structural explanations to a focus on subjectivity and meaning-making within post-modern social contexts where aging itself is culturally produced through activities such as consumption (Gilleard & Higgs, 2000, 2005; Katz, 2001; Twigg & Martin, 2015).     45   considers how cultural ideals regarding activity, beauty and youthful bodily functionality serve to discipline elder bodies (Foucault, 1988; Katz, 2000)10. Laz (2003), draws on interviews with adults over 50 to show how they accomplish age in embodied ways related to activity, fitness, health, energy, appearance, and illness. Arguing that the “corporeal body contributes to the accomplishment of age,” Laz (2003, p. 505) suggests that the material and corporeal cannot be disconnected from discourses and representations, and thus must be theorized together. The work of feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith (1990, 1999, 2005) has been fundamental to understanding the mutually constituting relation between the discursive and the material, given her attention to the relations of ruing brought into being as embodied individuals draw upon textually-mediated discourses in their daily lives. As I will discuss in chapter two, I take up Smith’s materialist ontology by conceptualizing thinking, speaking, reading and writing as material practices producing the ‘social,’ or individuals’ concerted activities (Smith, 2005). It is the daily activities, or ‘work’ of located elders and staff that produce aging in particular ways in the specific House context. I therefore ask: how do elders at the House “do” age in ways that intersect with gender, race, class and generation? Lastly, I consider how Neighbourhood House funding structures constrain and enable staff in their approach to senior-driven programming. The ability of Neighbourhood Houses to develop and deliver seniors’ programs must be understood in the context of the New                                                  10 Material-discursive work in gerontology considers the corporeal reality of aging bodies while acknowledging that perceptions of ‘natural’ bodies are always already cultural (Hurd Clarke & Griffin, 2007; Laz, 2003; Twigg & Martin, 2015). This approach frames “nature as a social text,” thus blurring constructed binaries between male and female and nature and culture (Twigg, 2004, p. 60). For instance, Calasanti and King (2007) examine intersections in the ways technology, medicine, media and consumerism produce and redefine sexual function in aging bodies, often in ways that are gendered.   46   Public Management (NPM), based on the imposition of managerial regimes from private enterprise to the public sector (Griffith & Smith, 2014, p. 5). NPM can be seen as “a major institutional specification of neoliberalism aiming to produce in the public sector a simulacrum of private-sector organization and management” (Griffith & Smith, 2014, p. 6). Management as a business discourse developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, beginning with the growing influence of Frederick Taylor’s ‘scientific management’. Organizational management came to be seen as an area of scientific expertise to be studied and implemented not only with regard to direct worker supervision, but as an “overall governing function and authority" that includes administrative practices (Griffith & Smith, 2014, p.6). Management discourse includes but is not limited to a quest for value and the identification and implementation of more efficient, inexpensive and institutionally accountable ways of providing public services (Hood, 1995, p. 97). Smith (2014, p. 8) argues that public-sector front-line service work is being transformed within the context of NPM so much so that it “reorganiz[es] people’s everyday/everynight lives and how their work [is] being done”. New Public Management is informed by the neoliberal logic taken up in Canada since the mid-1970s. This logic can be characterized by a set of assumptions, including that state regulation of the labour market is harmful for economic productivity, that public deficits are inherently negative, and that “the social protections guaranteed by the welfare state and its redistributive policies hinders economic growth” (Clark, 2002, p. 771). Within the context of globalization, neoliberal ideology posits that the state should not take on the socially productive role reminiscent of the Keynesian era. Instead, the state should facilitate “positioning the economy and society in order to best compete in an increasingly open and competitive global   47   economy” (McBride & McNutt, 2007, p. 182). Within Canada, the Keynesian welfare state “was placed on the defensive” beginning in the mid-1970s when programs such as unemployment insurance were gradually reduced (McBride & McNutt, 2007, p. 185). Fundamental changes to the state continued to be implemented by the neoliberal Mulroney Conservatives in the mid-1980s and the Liberal government in the 1990s under Jean Chrétien. These changes were characterized by public service downsizing, cuts to social programs, and a reorganization of the way services were delivered (Clark, 2002, p. 778). This included decreasing federal transfers to provinces and redesigning the purpose, amount and dissemination of unemployment benefits (McBride & McNutt, 2007). Notably, many social programs that were universal shifted to those that were targeted through means-tested eligibility requirements in an attempt to make the state’s social spending more efficient, cost-effective and accountable under the broader mandate of decreasing the national deficit (McBride & McNutt, 2007, p. 186). The federal government also endeavoured to run programs within specified cost-parameters and/or to make them self-financing (Houle, 1990).  House staff are affected by the economic implications of neoliberal logic as it shapes the running of and resources for NHs. In their study of 15 NHs in Metro Vancouver, Yan, Lauer and Riaño-Alcalá (2016, p.11) call the short/non-renewable government funding model for NHs as a “financial predicament”. They suggest this funding structure inhibits NH functioning, including their ability to hire and retain staff. The programming work of many staff members is organized around limited, project-based grants rather than core funds that help sustain the long-term running of the House. Most of the program funding that NHs in Metro Vancouver rely upon comes from the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government as well as charitable   48   organizations such as the United Way. In contrast to the “government’s rehetoric about rebuilding community, funding for community programmes is diminishing” rather than being sustained or even growing (Yan, Lauer and Riaño-Alcalá, 2016, p.11). Overwhelmingly, grants from these funding sources are offered in limited terms of at most three years that are often non-renewable (Yan, Lauer & Riaño-Alcalá, 2016, p.6).  The grants that House staff are able to secure shape the seniors’ programs they can develop or renew as well as how the success of these programs is quantified and assessed. For some staff members, particularly those who are part time or temporary, their ongoing and future employment at the House and/or their number of hours can depend on their frequent and successful grant-writing. On a daily basis, staff who report having an overwhelming number of tasks to complete must manage their time between doing front-line work with program participants and volunteers and doing behind-the-scenes paperwork associated with the quantitative markers that secure their employment. This daily negotiation means that staff sometimes organize program planning meetings with volunteers around institutional program outcomes, thus constraining the potential for considering senior-driven ideas and incorporating modifications that do not fit within established institutional needs. It is within this context that staff who organize the Seniors Drop-In Lunch operate. Their emphasis on program efficiency and cost-saving measures can overshadow more open-ended and potentially critical discussions and feedback about the Drop-In.    49   1.3 Chapter overview In the remaining chapters I draw upon the literature and discourses discussed above to present my research process and findings. In chapter two I layout my theoretical and methodological frameworks for this project. Theoretically, I build on West and Zimmerman (1987) and Butler (1990) to conceptualize aging as something that individuals do, in addition to gender, race, ethnicity and class. I draw on Mannheim’s concept of “generation location” (1952 [1927]) and feminist intersectional thinking (Denis, 2008; Hill Collins 1986; Hill Collins, 1990; Krenshaw, 1989) to contextualize the ways that elders at the House ‘do’ gender and ageing in specific situations. This theoretical framework enables me to demonstrate how elders at the House engaged with the Seniors’ Drop-In Program in ways that are fundamentally intersectional. In this chapter I also provide an overview of my materialist ontology and standpoint methodology to ground this project in the textually mediated discourses that elders take up at the House. Lastly, I discuss ethical considerations for this project and outline my process for employing research methods and analyzing the data.   This theoretical and methodological framework enables me to explicate how differently located elders and staff at the house interpreted and engaged with the Seniors’ Drop-In in distinct ways. The diagram below represents, in brief, the unique standpoints that my informants shared with me during our interviews and during my participant observation with the Drop-In. Some elders were positioned to see Drop-In activities as stimulating and productive, while others dismissed it as too ‘old’ and institutional. Still other elders questioned the ethnocentric assumptions upon which the activities rested, particularly the multicultural lunches. The staff   50   tended to approach the program from an entirely different perspective, with a focus on managing costs and ensuring the program was sustainable.   Figure 1. Different interpretations of the Seniors’ Drop-In Program  Chapters three, four and five map onto and represent my attempts to trace these distinct ways of knowing to the broader social relations they are coordinated by. In the third chapter I take up the standpoint of elders at the House to consider how they engaged with “productive” multicultural activities in generationally-specific ways shaped by their gender, race, and class. I argue that these low income, mostly white women elders produce their own “productive” aging through their participation in the multicultural meals at the Senior’s Drop-In Lunch, coordinated by the third age discourse. In chapter four I shift perspective to consider staff experiences of the Seniors’ Drop-In. I look at how staff draw upon the complementary yet contradictory discourses of “senior-driven programming” and “managerial efficiency” as they organize and implement the   51   program. To trace the behind-the-scenes program planning work, I show how staff make the ideas of elder House volunteers institutionally accessible by turning them into texts coordinated by the discourse of efficiency. Within this participant-driven programming model, the ways staff transform volunteer ideas based upon institutional needs is noteworthy.   In the fifth chapter I magnify my exploration of aging through an intersectional lens by explicating elder men’s relative lack of engagement with House seniors’ programming. As elder men participants reject the House’s seniors’ programming, or only engage with it in limited ways, they also work to produce their own masculine vitality in the face of age-based dependence and decline. These elder men perform various scripts of masculine aging by associating House spaces with femininity, and by positioning themselves in contrast to a notion of femininity they identify with weakness and inferiority. I conclude this chapter by reflecting on the way that staff make sense of men’s lack of participation in House senior’s programs. In chapter six, the final concluding chapter, I provide an overview of my key arguments, discussing implications, future research directions and policy recommendations.       52   Chapter 2: The experience and institutionalization of gendered aging: Frameworks for studying the third age   In this chapter I discuss the core theorists, theories, and concepts that I engage with in this dissertation. I also detail my methodological orientation and decisions. I present my theoretical and methodological framework together in the same chapter because they are fundamentally interrelated; they mutually inform one another.    2.1 Theoretical frameworks To explicate how elders’ work as program volunteers and program participants is connected to  broader social relations, I focus on their involvement with the the Seniors’ Drop-In Lunch. I trace the ways these elders engaged with this program are coordinated by the third age discourse. To do so I bring sociological theory on generation, grounded in Mannheim’s foundational text (1970[1950]), into dialogue with the ‘third age’—an aging discourse connected to a variety of popular, professional, and academic texts. With an intersectional feminist lens I interpret the complex ways these elders cultivate their own (in)dependent aging within this institutional context. I also draw on the notion of gender as performative developed within the sociology of gender (West & Zimmerman, 1987) and queer theory (Butler, 1990) to situate aging as something that individuals do while also engaging gender, race, ethnicity and class positions. Below I provide an overview of the relevant concepts and theoretical insights that ground and guide this work.      53   2.1.1 The discourse and performativity of aging   In this dissertation I take up ‘discourse’ to elucidate how the activities of specific people in a particular time and place are interconnected with the activities of other individuals acting in other times and places, thus necessitating a focus on the variety of texts that connect them (Griffith & Smith, 2014; Smith, 2005). With the historical development of technologies for the mass production and dissemination of texts (in various forms and mediums), as well as the rise of national and international bureaucratic organization within industrial and post-industrial capitalism, texts have become fundamental to how social relations are organized. Discourses are textually-mediated in that they are produced and reproduced through writing, drawing, and speaking, which can be disseminated to multiple locations instantaneously (Smith, 1999, p. 79). Most individuals in Canada encounter and employ numerous texts every single day; many even carry texts on their bodies (e.g., tattoos, driver’s license, care card, five dollar bill, and so on) and have access to electronic texts at the click of a button on a smart phone or portable computer. Texts informed by the third age discourse are pervasive within medical offices, gyms, travel stores, television and numerous other places and mediums people often encounter. Discourse, therefore, refers to the translocal relations that coordinate the activities of embodied, located individuals (Smith, 2005, p. 224). Discourse both enables and constrains people’s material daily activities, including thinking, speaking, writing, watching, and other forms of action.  My approach to discourse is also informed by a Foucauldian conception of power as productive and pervasive rather than repressive and uni-directional (Foucault, 1978, p. 136). The notion that power is productive allows scholars to consider how subjects are produced through discourse as a medium through which power circulates. This understanding of power is   54   particularly relevant when considering how dominant ideals about ‘youth,’ ‘age,’ ‘independence’ and so on can actually produce new classifications with compulsory implications, such as the relatively recent construction of the term ‘zoomer’ that I will discuss throughout this work.  However, my emphasis on discourse does not negate the experiences of actual people. I do not envision discourses acting on passive bodies. On the contrary, people actively bring discourses into being through their activities, through which they have the potential to both reproduce and modify these discourses in contextualized local settings. Smith highlights the relevance of located people and their activities through the term ‘discourse in action’: “Though discourse is regulated in various ways, each moment of discourse in action both reproduces and remakes it” (Smith, 2005, p. 224). In other words, discourses are always active: they are brought into being through people’s activities. For instance, texts are not passive words on a page; rather individuals take up their syntax and fill in their generalizing properties through local actualities engaged in through text-reader conversations (Smith, 2005, p. 105). Through this dissertation I show how elders and staff took up specific discourses at the House. They produced themselves and the multicultural lunches through these discourses in this specific local context.  Many feminist sociologists and queer theorists understand gender as a social process that people ‘do’ or ‘perform’ (Butler, 1990; West & Zimmerman, 1987). I am able to theorize the complex ways individuals take up discourses through this constructionist framework. I suggest that like gender, age and aging are also institutionalized social processes that people perform as rituals through their daily activities. Although Smith (p1999, p.107) dismisses the concept of “performativity” as a nominalization that “substitutes for intention as the originator of action,” I feel it is still useful in centring the experiences of particular people and the unique ways they   55   draw upon and adapt discourses within particular contexts in a way that avoids discursive circularity. When I use the language of “performance,” therefore, I am not suggesting that people are simply the effect of language. On the contrary, I recognize that the discursive and the material are always interrelated and cannot be understood separately. Given that my participants were doing aging and gender as daily work coordinated by discourse, I draw upon the notion of “performance” to highlight this work while also acknowledging the importance of actual experiences.   Just as sex is a system of classification assigned to bodies at birth, age is a classification system applied to bodies from the moment they are born. At various points in time different age classifications become more or less salient. In the early years of life, babies are classified according to the hours and months that have passed since their birth, and in middle age and old adulthood significant birthdays become a primary focus (e.g., “Happy 60th!”). Age is embedded in legal systems (e.g., age for marriage), the workforce (age for mandatory or optional retirement), the social safety net (e.g., Old Age Security), social norms (e.g., “Should she be wearing that at her age?”), social statuses (e.g., “Respect your elders!”), and cultural expectations (e.g., “Should you still be living on your own?”). Age also takes on meaning in particular contexts. For previous generations, being a ‘senior’ was associated with a gradual physical, mental, and social decline. Yet for the current generation of ‘boomers,’ dominant discourses, particularly those perpetuated through the marketing of medical and anti-aging products, situate the third age as a distinct time for the maintenance of good health, productive activity, and an opportunity to pursue new and fulfilling experiences (Gilleard & Higgs, 2002; Katz & Marshall, 2003; Marshall, 2011; McGowan, 2013; Rudman, 2015).    56   West and Zimmerman (1987, p. 128) have presented a framework for conceptualizing gender as something that people do (rather than something people are). They are responding to previous sociological conceptions of gender that reduced gender “to a fixed set of psychological traits or to a unitary ‘variable’ preclud[ing] serious consideration of the ways it is used to structure distinct domains of social experience” (West & Zimmerman, 1987, p.128). Their approach also critiques the notion of “gender roles” and “sex roles”, which were originally useful in sociology because they highlighted how gender was learned and enacted at a time when gender was not seen to be a fundamental way in which the social world was organized. West and Zimmerman propose a social constructionist approach to conceptualizing gender based on how gender is ‘done’ routinely in everyday interactions and perceptions. In contrast to the cultural logic by which gender is situated as a natural expression of an internal or inherent ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity’ (and corresponding sex as ‘male’ or ‘female’), this social constructionist approach questions the taken-for-granted character of gender by focusing on micro-level interactions and their macro-level organization. Since social and institutional organization, such as separate toilets for men and women, is not simply based on gender but also constitutes gender, performing gender legitimatizes established social organization and hierarchies. Within the ‘doing gender’ framework, for example, individuals are understood to ‘accomplish’ their gender in order to appear competent and avoid judgment. Through my interviews and fieldnotes, I found that individuals were also ‘doing’ age in everyday interactions, not necessarily as an expression of an internal, biological age classification, but as a performance of expected behaviours associated with particular life phases legitimated through cultural expectations and institutional organization.   57   My thinking about individuals’ performances of gender and age is also informed by the work of Butler (1990) who draws from a post-structuralist framework to suggest that gender is not only produced through interaction, but also performed through discourse. Butler pays attention to acts as they resonate with, replicate, and signify collective discourses that make them appear within the realm of the possible and knowable. Butler’s analysis demonstrates that thinking and acting are constrained and enabled within established discursive options, often accompanied by a variety of accountability sanctions for perceived failures. For Butler, performativity refers to the idea that gender only comes to exist as a coherent identity in the enactment of scripts of value and meaning (1990, p.34). Much like gender, the conception of a stable, aged self is an achievement that is constrained and enabled by discourses that individuals take up and are subsequently the basis for policing behavior.   Although I find Butler’s (1990) approach to performativity useful, my materialist ontology requires that I do not privilege language over the activities of actual people. I therefore engage with the notion of performativity to show how gender and aging are actions connected to discourse, but I do not fully embrace the implied circularity of Butler’s notion of discourse insofar as it can lead to a devaluation of experiences and an erasure of what is achieved through people’s concerted action. Instead, I draw on insights from theories of both “doing gender” and “performativity” to highlight the importance of language and daily interactions in conceptions of aging. Although textually mediated discourses play a powerful role in coordinating social relationships, I approach performativity cautiously and with ample attention to actual people and their daily contextualized activities that bring the social into being.    58   Elders at the House did aging in a way that was generational. They performed not only with reference to biological age (as classified and assigned by humans) but also in ways that were fundamentally intertwined with what aging and “old age” had come to mean throughout the course of their lifetime. People who were sixty-five in Canada in 1900 and 1950 did not encounter the same set of textually-mediated discourses shaping perceptions of aging. What is most salient for explicating my participants’ activities is not solely how old they were, but the structural and cultural features of the time periods in which they were born, came of age, and were taking up old adulthood. As I will outline in chapter three, the third age discourse emerged and developed alongside the birth, adolescence, middle age, and old age of the “boomer” generation.  Karl Mannheim (1970[1950]) outlines some theoretical tools for understanding the sociological importance of generation. He argues that sociologists must explore generation location, meaning the year and time period one is born in, as pivotal to collective and individual consciousness, similar to how class location structures what and how an individual can know of the social world. Mannheim suggests that generation and class location “both endow the individuals sharing in them with a common location in the social and historic process, and thereby limit them to a specific range of potential experience, predisposing them for a certain characteristic mode of thought and experience” (1970[1950], p. 381-82). Building upon the materialist approach to class common among Marxists, Mannheim argues that generational consciousness is informed by the significant structural conditions experienced by a generation throughout their lives. He situates his notion of generational entelechy, meaning style or essence of a new generation (p. 401), by claiming that the views of any particular social group (including   59   class or generation) are conditioned according to what they have experienced in their daily lives. Indeed, Mannheim’s own thinking was informed by his awareness of the generational tensions emerging in a tumultuous period in Germany, where he resided during the interwar years (Kemple, 2014). In this sense, Mannheim shares epistemological roots with standpoint scholars who connect daily experiences with various institutional and personal ways of knowing (Harding, 2009; Hartsock, 1983; Hill Collins, 1990; Smith, 1974).  In chapter three I discuss and contextualize House elders’ aging in relation to the significant economic, political, and technological shifts that occurred during their lifetimes. The rise of the third age discourse must be situated within its historical context, including key economic and social events that led to its development. Mannheim was clear in outlining the distinctions and relationship between generation and age:   Individuals who belong to the same generation, who share the same year of birth, are endowed, to that extent, with a common location in the historical dimension of the social process. [However], biology only help[s] us explain the phenomena of life and death, the limited span of life, and the mental, spiritual, and physical changes accompanying aging as such; [it] offer[s] no explanation of the relevance these primary factors have for the shaping of social interrelationships in their historic flux….Were it not for the existence of social interaction between human beings – were there no definable social structure, no history based on a particular sort of continuity – the generation would not exist as a social location phenomenon; there would merely be birth, aging, and death. (1970[1950], p. 380-381)   60   While Mannheim acknowledged that age is a necessary precursor to generational experiences, he distinguished between analyses of age that begin and end with physiological facts and those that draw on age as a window into how social interactions and structures are shaped in particular times and places. To understand how the rise of the third age discourse has been taken up by elders at the House, I consider how their aging activities are performed or enacted. They produced youthful, ageless versions of themselves through our interviews and through the activities they participated in at the House. I theorize the relationship between age and generation location by reading these terms in relation to feminist analyses of sex and gender. In some ways, age is to generation as sex is to gender; ‘doing age’ is less about how systems of biological classification (age assignment) are assumed and applied and more about how the discursive construction of age and aging becomes enacted through and particular to one’s generation location.11 In other words, people perform their age based upon what they believe is expected of them in a particular time and place.    2.1.2 The intersections of class/status, sex/gender and race/ethnicity12  Canada is currently in a neoliberal moment that is redefining what it means to be aging. This moment is best exemplified through the development of the third age discourse of aging produced through the professions and social sciences, and also by the elders that take up and                                                  11 It would also be productive to consider whether and how generational discourses of aging can be taken up to produce biologically aged bodies and associated medical classifications (much like cultural beliefs about gender can shape how humans classify and interpret biological sex) (Fausto-Sterling, 1987). However, this topic is beyond the scope of this project. 12 Later in this chapter I discuss my engagement with intersectionality as a method.   61   reproduce these ideas in particular ways. Insofar as research is itself political, scholars of social gerontology and the sociology of aging are both documenting these changes and surveilling and reproducing them (Foucault, 1980, p. 27, 32). To fully grasp the extent of this changing conception of age for my participants, elders born between 1945 and 1955, it is useful to take up a generational lens to explicate how these changes are rooted in broader structural shifts that have occurred throughout the course of their lives and have continued to shape their experiences in old age. However, a generational analysis must take into account insights from feminist intersectionality scholars to be alert to the ways that aging ideals are structured by systems of power and oppression shaping intersecting relations of class, race, gender, sexuality, and ability. There is space within Mannheim’s work to build an intersectional analysis of generation. Mannheim did theorize the potential for members of the same generation to experience similar social changes in developing different “intellectual and social responses to an historical stimulus experienced by all in common” (1970[1950], p. 395-96). In doing so, he acknowledged that members of a generation could be oriented to a similar set of problems but not necessarily in the same way. He also clarified how some members of a generation will not be affected by the same social shifts and their outcomes (what he called “symptoms” and “motivating challenges”) because of their differing proximity to these shifts. However, Mannheim’s focus and examples were primarily oriented to his interest in social movements; he emphasized the beliefs and political leanings that different groups hold within a generation.   By contrast, I focus on how members of the same generation are positioned differently within relations of structural inequality. My arguments in the following chapters show how generational conceptions of aging are structured and experienced differently within systems of   62   power and oppression that are racialized, classed, and gendered. I draw on valuable theoretical insights from intersectionality scholarship in approaching, contextualizing, and engaging with these forms of social differences and inequality. Intersectional scholarship informs how I theorize systems of inequality, and how individuals are positioned at multiple points in these interlocking systems. Through this approach I am able to root my insights in people’s speaking and acting while connecting these insights to the larger processes of power that shape these experiences.  Following intersectional approaches to how systems of marginalization and oppression interact (Denis, 2008, p.678; Hill Collins 1986, p.19), I work to analyze how these multiple, intersecting systems affect the lives of elders. Intersectional theory highlights the ways in which individuals’ experiences are rooted in their fundamentally intersectional social locations. Denis (2008, p. 678) suggests that feminist sociologists engaging in intersectional work share a political commitment to social change based on understanding and reducing marginalization (which I also take up through my engagement with standpoint as a method of inquiry, discussed below), as well as a reflective recognition that all analyses are partial (in contrast to certain enlightenment principles of universality).    It is important to acknowledge that women of colour primarily developed intersectional thinking in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Combahee River Collective (1978), Angela Davis (1981), bell hooks (1981), Audre Lorde (1984), Elizabeth Spelman (1988), and Patricia Hill Collins (1990), although the term itself was coined by Kimberly Crenshaw in 1989. These intersectionality scholars critically examine the tendency (highly visible within the second-wave feminist movement) through which multiple oppressions have been conceptualized as separate,   63   additive and/or hierarchical, often with gender or class understood as the capstone mode of power. By challenging this approach, intersectional frameworks allow for more complex analyses that “simultaneously take into account the intersection of multiple social locations, each socially defined, with the constraints or opportunities that such a definition can entail” (Denis, 2008, p. 681). Furthermore, as McCall (2001) demonstrates, factors that increase inequality in one time and place can decrease inequality in another (McCall 2001). This contextual nuance highlights how the most accurate, useful knowledge production does not follow the logic of universal thinking or the tendency to privilege one form of oppression over others without a careful examination of people’s actual experiences in social situations (Denis 2008: 681). I have sought through my analysis and writing to demonstrate how various social locations are not cumulative, but rather inform and shape how participants experience and present multiple overlapping aspects of themselves and the specific situations they are in. A finding from my research that I will discuss in chapter three has implications for how I take up theoretical insights from intersectionality scholars. In learning about my elder participants I came to find that from a generational perspective, they have experienced substantial privileges with regard to economic conditions and government social programs in comparison to generations before them. However, in relation to people their own age, many of my elder participants are marginalized by their class position, particularly as single elders on fixed income renting in the context of Vancouver’s unaffordable housing market. Given this unique class position and generation location, many of my elder participants managed on small fixed incomes, yet had access to healthcare and leisure options that they described as allowing them to lead flexible and interesting lives. With these points in mind, I explicate how experiences of class position are   64   informed by other axes of privilege and oppression, including those structured by generation, gender, race and ethnicity. By emphasizing generation location (Mannheim, 1927/1952), I highlight the relevance of historical time period for intersectional sociological analysis. Considering marginalization at a systemic level enables me to explore how my participants were positioned within the systems that they participated in. My goal is to learn about these systems while showing the ways participants drew on particular discourses within the context of these systems.     2.2 An ontology, epistemology and methodology grounding the third age in elders’ daily experiences   My engagement with intersectional experiences of aging in the third age is informed by my materialist ontology and standpoint epistemology, largely shaped by the work of feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith (2005, 1999, 1990, 1987). Drawing selectively on Smith’s work, I am interested in tracing how people participate in bringing textually-mediated discourses into being and action in the specific House context. Their speaking, writing, thinking and other activities are a part of this active process of producing and reproducing discourse. I take up Smith’s approach to the standpoint of experience as a starting point for a method of inquiry by focusing first on how embodied knowing is done by my participants. I consider multiple standpoints as they are taken up from within the House: the mostly women elders who participated and/or volunteered in the Seniors’ Drop-In Lunch, the staff who helped organize and implement this programming, and the mostly men elders who did not participate or who limited their participation in this programming. This research is also shaped by my own standpoint in the   65   House, which I refer to and discuss throughout the dissertation. My own social location and daily experiences—including my youngish age, whiteness, female self-presentation, and status as a graduate student—shaped how I approached, perceived and interacted in the space, and how others interpreted and responded to me. Furthermore, I took on multiple, sometimes competing, roles in the House, including as a volunteer, researcher, and community member, that both constrained and enabled my access to conversations and insights, and that had ethical implications which I discuss later in this chapter.  I have chosen standpoint as a method for this work because of how the terrain of third age literature has developed, and because of my recognition of the political grounding and implications of social scientific research. Much of the literature on the third age has been explored through trends at the macro level, such as shifting demographics and the distribution of wealth within nations (see Laslett, 1989; Gilleard and Higgs, 2000, 2005), as well as through quantitative indicators of elder consumption and activity patterns (Chatzitheochari & Arber, 2011; Gilleard, Higgs, Hyde, Wiggins & Blane, 2005). Holstein (2011, p. 233) argues that this postmodern emphasis on consumption and productive aging produces “totalizing narratives that speak from and to the center and not the margins.” Researchers in this area also diverge from the more explicitly political roots of the feminist perspective on the political economy of aging which centres on systemic inequalities within a social justice framework (Estes, 2001). As such, my interest is in beginning with and centring the daily experiences of diverse elders who may be less visible within established accounts in the interest of producing knowledge that addresses their realities and perspectives. My standpoint epistemology acknowledges that access to ways of knowing is structured by social locations and embodied experiences that often compete with or   66   contradict one another. Just as Smith (1990) found that women activists do not have access to the language within official texts to describe their experiences, and as Hill Collins (1986) found that research on African American communities is produced largely by white men academics in ways that often suppress meaningful self-representation among these communities, third age research often emphasizes generational commonalities while largely erasing the experiences of more marginalized elders who do not have access to the “active” aging and consumption practices described in the literature.       The ontology informing my approach is based on Smith’s (1990, p. 35; 1999; 1987) understanding of social relationships rooted in Marx’s materialist conception of history. Marx argues that research practices should be based on “real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity” (1845/2012, p.34). For Marx, accurate and reliable research must begin with a conception of the social that is rooted in the experiences of actual people (1845/2012, p. 34-35). Smith (2005, 1999, 1990, 1987) builds upon Marx’s materialism through the development of her approach to a sociology for rather than about people. Smith outlines a materialist conception of social life and argues that the focus and purpose of sociological research must be to explore how people’s daily activities are coordinated. This framework is evident within Smith’s definition of the social as “the ongoing concerting and coordinating of individuals’ activities” (1999, p. 6). Although much mainstream sociology is based on “devices for converting the world of actual people into a subjectless phenomenal universe” (Smith 1999, p. 24), understood in terms of structure and systems, for example, Smith begins with the standpoint of experience and in the   67   specific local and historical contexts in which people think, act, and work. This method thus places the embodied experiences of actual subjects at the centre of inquiry.  The standpoint of experience suggests a method of inquiry, a starting point for explicating how the practices of embodied people in local contexts are coordinated. This approach to inquiry, which maintains a connection to actual people and their interests, gets closer to producing knowledge that is accountable to the people under study and that is not discursively ordered to meet the needs of dominant institutions within corporate capitalism. In The Everyday World as Problematic (1987), Smith provides a detailed account of her experience walking her dog in her neighbourbood. Her particular thoughts and actions during this walk “giv[e] access to that which is not particular since [they are] embedded in categories whose meaning reaches into the complex of social relations” that can be explicated (1987, p. 154-56). Similarly, I begin with moments at the House, such as when a staff member writes the idea of one elder into the minutes for a program planning meeting but not the idea of another elder. This specific action is an entry point for tracing how the thinking of this staff member is shaped by the institutional needs of the House as they are connected to the discourse of managerial efficiency within a context of scarce program funding.  In this dissertation I take up a materialist ontology to understand how discourses are brought into being through located individuals who are “active in [their] ongoing concerting of activities with others” (Smith, 1999, p. 109). I engage in this work by conceptualizing discourses as textually mediated. I define discourse as “the translocal relations coordinating the practices of definite individuals talking, writing, reading, watching, and so forth, in particular local places at particular times” (Smith, 2005, p. 224). These translocal relations are coordinated through texts.   68   Texts are material, in that they are written at one point in time by a particular individual or group, but can be reproduced identically and taken up by other individuals in other times and places. Located readers activate texts; as they read, listen or watch, readers take up the text’s syntax and institutional categories and fill in the gaps within their local context. Texts, therefore, become a medium for researchers to explicate the way particular local doings relate to broader social relations. Within the House context I consider how textually-mediated discourses of the third age, senior-driven programming and managerial efficiency are taken up in particular ways by elders and staff.  My approach to these institutional discourses is built from and remains connected to the experiences of my participants. In writing up the data from my fieldnotes, transcripts, and documentary analyses, I have attempted to avoid turning participants’ actions (verbs) into nouns (although I have continued to catch myself doing so). My fieldnotes from participant observations and interviews describe my interactions with participants in the past tense in an effort to foreground that these were actual people acting in a particular place at a particular time (myself included). My use of the past tense also acknowledges that participants and their activities may change over time as they continue to engage in contextualized meaning-making. I have also chosen to highlight the ways participants are verbally producing their experiences with me by retaining the context and detail of each account (for example, by retaining longer interview excerpts where appropriate). When possible, I illustrate common thematic patterns across participants by focusing in depth on how individual accounts were produced. In some cases, I return to the same interviewee multiple times to show how their responses throughout our interview related to, built on, or challenged one another.    69   Additionally, and somewhat accidentally, I did not begin with a set of concepts or theories related to the third age and then search for their existence in the real world. The focus of my analysis shifted from a concern with sexuality and intimacy to questions related to aging in the third age because of what my participants were doing in their everyday lives (See Appendixes A – E). I noticed that my elder participants were doing aging in unique ways, and only then did I begin to reexamine and explore literature on the sociology of aging and social gerontology (which I was largely unfamiliar with up until that point). I moved from located experiences to theory and then back again. As I began to read the sociological work on aging, I was then able to ‘see’ what was happening around me at the House in new ways.  Lastly, I have tried to avoid presenting participants’ activities as examples of generalizing sociological concepts. Instead, I have oriented much of my analysis to finding “generalizing and standardizing processes in the ethnographic data” (Smith, 2005, p. 135). This approach can be seen in the way I have attempted to situate participants in relation to the discourse of the third age. Rather than presenting participants as examples that illustrated the reified existence of a supposedly stable and objective third age, I show how participants are situated within and actively negotiate texts coordinated by this discourse. I demonstrate how the third age works as a regulatory discourse circulated through academic, government and marketing texts that participants bring into being in their local context.  However, I do still draw upon some established concepts to make sense of my participants’ experiences. My dissertation is informed by literature on gender as a performance from the sociology of gender (West & Zimmerman, 1987) and queer theory (Butler, 1990). I build on this literature to suggest that much like gender, age may be seen as a social   70   accomplishment constrained and enabled by discourse and brought into being through interaction within particular contexts. I therefore engage in a practice that may be seen as objectifying to the extent that I turn my participants into examples of sociological concepts in my effort to trace how social relations are coordinated within and beyond the House (Smith, 1990). In this sense, I participate in bringing the ruling relations into being by applying and extending existing theoretically-driven sociological discourse to make aspects of participants’ lives knowable and generalizable to institutionally-embedded experts. My familiarity with sociological literature on gender meant that throughout my observations and interviews, I constantly saw how gender and age were being done by participants. The social construction of gender is a lens that deeply informs how I think and know, and it ended up shaping my understanding of House activities. I found my competing desires to explicate and objectify in constant tension. Nevertheless, I attempt to retain the presence of my participants in discussions of the performative nature of gender and age in order to demonstrate how they take up the third age discourse in unique, contextualized ways.  Furthermore, even though my use of the frameworks of gender as “performative” stands in contrast to aspects of my epistemology and ontology, the knowledge I generate still satisfies some components of validity set out by scholars who stress the need to start from and return to the standpoint of experience. Researchers engaging with approaches to experiential standpoints evaluate knowledge based on its utility for the groups under study: “Do[es it] in fact produce more accurate, comprehensive, rationally justifiable, and politically useful knowledge” for the groups who participate in the research and to whom the project is accountable (Harding, 2009, p.195)? Within this framework, accuracy is evaluated not in terms of relevance to discursively-  71   ordered disciplinary debates, but on the connection of the data and write-up to the actual daily experiences of participants (Smith, 1987). From this perspective, it is not my contribution to the concept of “performativity” that makes my research useful, valid or accurate. Instead, what matters is that I closely engage with and remain connected to my participants’ experiences, and that the information in this dissertation may be useful for them and other members of the House.  Smith argues that textually mediated discourses play a powerful role in coordinating the social, although the daily contextualized activities of people that bring the social into being should be the centre of academic work. The purpose of my inquiry is to observe what people actually do in the times and places they act in, and to consider how these activities are coordinated. This approach aims to retain the presence of participants in my writing, and to develop knowledge that is useful for them as well as for me. I do not try to produce ‘truth’ but to produce knowledge that can be relied upon as valid for the purposes of sociological argument and accountable for the people that are the focus of my work (Harding, 2009). This approach to knowledge production is one way in which I demonstrate responsibility and reciprocity to my participants (Kirkness & Barnhardt, 1991).  My decision to study one institutional setting means that my work shares some common features of a conventional case study. A case study is not a method, but a methodology that privileges the importance of context while enabling a researcher to utilize multiple methods to explore a chosen ‘case’ in depth (Stake, 1995; Swanborn, 2010). Although what constitutes a case may be debatable, in general a case can be a theoretical and/or empirical object, such as a person, organization, or geographical area, or process with clear boundaries specific to time and space. In this project I focus on the organization of the Seniors’ Drop-In Lunch program.   72   However, my goal is to identify discourses that shape, but extend beyond, House activities. My intention is to see how this particular situation is put together, thus requiring the researcher to look beyond the situation to the broader social relations coordinating it, that is, to “the social relations that connect us all” (Sprague, 2005, p. 156). The purpose is not to study an individual, an isolated event, or a distinct phenomena, but rather to root an explication of the ruling relations—dominant objectified social relations that are both generalized and generalizing—within a particular context. The concept of the ruling relations alerts scholars to “the historical development of forms of social consciousness that can no longer be adequately conceived as arising in the life condition of actual individuals” (Smith, 1999, p. 78). In other words, I attempt to study the objectification of consciousness, thought, and culture by tracing how relations of power and governing work through concepts and symbols (Smith, 2005, p. 69; Smith, 1990, p. 14). Here “governing” means not simply government as political organization, but rather the “total complex of activities, differentiated into many spheres” through which contemporary society is managed and administered (Smith, 1990, p. 14). The ruling relations are produced and reproduced through management and administration taking place within institutions, including business, government, and education, and including academic scholarship. As such, I explore one site yet am able to discover textually-mediated discourses that have broader implications beyond Spruce House.    2.2.1 An intersectional analysis of the third age  Feminist intersectional work shapes how I conduct my analysis, including what I listen for in interviews, what I look for and notice in my fieldwork, and how I approach and make sense of   73   the data with an emphasis on an analytical treatment of social categories informed by intracategorical complexity (Denis, 2008; McCall, 2005, p. 172-3). Analytically and methodologically, I am working to develop an interpretation that is intersectional in nature (Denis, 2008, p. 685), rather than simply to incorporate an awareness of multiple social locations into my work.  Intersectional methodologies require intricate decisions about the treatment of social categories during all stages of the research process. Simply incorporating multiple social locations into my work is insufficient; therefore I strive to develop an intersectional interpretation as well (Denis, 2008, p. 685). Feminist researchers have engaged with a spectrum of approaches for conceptualizing analytical categories in intersectional work, namely inter-, intra-, and anti-categorical complexity (Denis, 2008; McCall, 2005, p. 1772-3). A significant difference between these three positions is the associated assumptions about and treatment of social categories for analysis. Attention to intercategorical complexity entails drawing upon reified categories in order to strategically focus on relations of inequality between established social groups whose social markers and boundaries are not meaningfully problematized in the research (Denis, 2008, p. 686). This approach lends itself to analyses that are informed by quantitative logic, often by comparing relationships among multiple groups conceptualized as relatively stable and rigid. On the other end of the spectrum is anti-categorical complexity focused on deconstructing analytical categories (Denis, 2008, p. 685). This approach is rooted in the notion that discourse produces subjects in action, and therefore to study crystallized groups apart from relations of talk and text is to reify relations of power.         74    More centrally located on the spectrum of intersectional analysis is intracategorical complexity—the position that my own work is most informed by—which incorporates elements of the two other approaches. This approach is most appropriate for explicating the lived experiences of my participants, yet also allows me to trace how those experiences are structured. Much like intercategorical complexity, this analytical framework enables me to listen for subjects’ experiences of “stable and even durable relationships that social categories represent at any given point in time” (Denis, 2008, p. 685). Following this approach, I am able to highlight the ways that House staff carved out perceived groups and needs around which to organize programs, as well as the ways that elders and staff conceptualized the social categories to which they described belonging. I am also able to draw upon established social and analytical categories (e.g., age, generation, ethnicity, class, gender) yet carve out “neglected points of intersection” within the systems that organize these classifications (Denis, 2008, p. 685). Rather than remaining in this congealed terrain, however, I also focus on the ways that individuals produce themselves through their daily activities. For example, in chapter five I show how elder men at the House engaged in reproducing their youthful, virile masculinity through how they classify certain activities as feminized, and therefore also “old” within the context of their generational perceptions of aging. Through this work I treat participants’ social locations as “neither neutral and passive nor fixed,” and therefore as rooted within historically specific contexts (Lawrence, 2003, p. 4).   I am also aware that some elder participants employ and navigate within institutional identity categories in ways that allow them to mobilize around and access resources. Many of my elder participants depended on housing and income subsidies at the provincial and federal levels,   75   and they realized that they had to continue to meet the criteria to qualify in order to maintain their fixed income. Some elders explained to me how, prior to moving in, they had identified the particular classification systems they would need to fit within to increase their likelihood of being admitted into the House’s subsidized seniors’ housing. For example, Judy, an older woman who had experienced homelessness (what she called a “Gypsy life”) for many years during her adult life, described to me her thought process for accessing this housing opportunity:  Katherine: So how did you come to live here?  At the House?  Judy: [….] I went “okay, there’s 30 [units]. Ten are low income, ten are  medium, ten are high. Very likely, for sure, I’m the low income part”. And  there were more applications [remaining] for that.   Judy described assessing the institutional categories according to which she perceived the housing to be organized, and determining which category she fitted into. She also noted that more high income applicants had already been selected, making her chances greater (as far as she knew at the time through her friend who had also been admitted, but with a higher income). Judy, who was not “on the street homeless, but staying with [her] kids and family and friends for fourteen years,” explained that once she had applied for housing at the House, she did not want to rent an apartment of her own. This was partially because she did not meet the income requirements for admittance into her daughter’s housing co-op, and partially because her Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) monthly rent subsidy would not cover the cost for even a small apartment rented at market value in Vancouver. In addition to noting these constraints, however, Judy also demonstrated her awareness of the implications of her homeless status in relation to the administrative categories that governed the tenant selection process at the House. She explained,   76   “I also didn’t want to take a place because then I knew I would have gone down low on the list for this one… because I knew it was going to be for senior’s ‘at risk’... so [I] was resistan[t] to find anything [so I could remain ‘at risk’]”. Judy showed me that her understanding of her housing experiences and status was subject to context and negotiation. She sometimes called herself homeless but other times labeled herself as a traveler who had the opportunity to spend lots of time in the homes of loved ones across the country. When discussing her experience gaining access to the House’s seniors’ residence, Judy described employing the classification “at risk” and pursuing actions and self-representations that would ensure she remained within that category.       Throughout the interviews and observations, I am able to identify various points and processes through which elders and staff situated themselves in relation to different social and institutional categories, at different times in relation to class age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. Sometimes, these labels were strategically employed in the specific institutional context of the House, both for participants in accessing resources but also for staff in securing and mobilizing limited available grant funds around the conception of a particular ‘need’ or ‘issue’. Other times these labels were part of participants’ performances as they worked to achieve a coherent self that they desired to communicate to me in the context of the interview. By taking up an analysis rooted in intracategorical complexity, I am able to highlight participants’ lived experiences of perceiving their subject positions as relatively entrenched and stable. Yet I am also able to show how they actively participated in processes of defining, maintaining, and/or challenging the boundaries of the groups that they associated themselves with and/or that they associated with others within this institutional context.    77    2.2.2 Getting to know my participants  Like Judy, all of my elder participants resided in affordable seniors’ housing managed by the House. I interviewed fifteen of thirty-seven elder residents in this housing13. Their housing was significant not just because it located them at the same place at the same time, but also because they had all met the same subsidized housing income and asset requirements, situating them in an interesting position in relation to the third age that is less visible in dominant literature (see Weiss & Bass, 2002).   My elder participants (n = 15) can overwhelmingly be classified as members of the “boomer” generation. All but one was born in the 1940s and 1950s, and only three were born outside of Canada (one in the United Kingdom, one in Hungary, and a third in Poland). The majority of participants held an undergraduate or professional degree (12/15), with an additional two having taken some undergraduate courses as mature students. Their educational attainment demonstrates they had access to educational institutions throughout their lives, despite their gender. Most of my participants (12/15) identified as women. None indicated identifying as trans* or having a trans* history. It is not surprising that there would be more women in this low income housing as elder women in Canada are twice as likely to be low income as elder men (Statistics Canada, 2015). It is interesting that these mostly women elders are low-income in                                                  13 I have chosen not to include a table of participant characteristics in the body or appendices of the dissertation. I do so out of respect for the privacy and confidentiality of my participants. Within the context of the small, tight community at the House, residents and staff may be able to identify one another quite easily. I therefore refer to certain relevant characteristics in the text when I introduce individual participants and when I discuss their responses to my interview questions, but I do not provide an overall summary chart of all of their characteristics together. I feel that this approach allows more uncertaintly to remain about the real identities of each participant.     78   retirement despite their high educational attainment – a finding that complicates the notion that national conditions, including public education systems, fundamentally reshape old age for the masses (Laslett, 1989) and instead highlights the importance of an intersectional analysis. All participants had engaged in paid employment throughout their lives, yet some of the women worked part time at various points in order to accommodate child rearing and other unpaid domestic work. Despite their high educational attainment and high labour force participation rates, these elders acquired small amounts of wealth and, at the time of our interviews, relied on public funds as their primary source of income. Gendered patterns in earnings throughout their lives, despite high labour force participation rates, likely influenced their wealth and pension income in old age.  Their class position is likely shaped by their relationship status and the privileges afforded to couples. All of my participants are divorced (5), separated (1), or single (9), meaning never married and not dating or partnered (none were widowed). Statistics Canada documents that divorce has more negative financial effects for women than for men (Statistics Canada, 2012). Only three of my participants, however, expressed interest in having a partner (which I explicitly asked about), and none indicated they wanted to live with a partner. Women in particular expressed pleasure at their freedom, sometimes contrasted with previous relationships – a finding that echoes Klinenberg’s (2012) analysis of the increase in people living alone.  When these elders told me about their occupations during our interviews, I realized the extent to which they worked in sex-segregated industries. Most of my elder women participants had been employed in the educational, childcare, administrative and medical fields, often in jobs that were entry level and/or seen to be for ‘women’. Some had reduced their paid hours in order   79   to focus on domestic work and/or to prioritize their husband’s career. While my elder men participants were also low income, their careers were shaped by other factors. Stan, for example, was an engineer trained in Eastern Europe who, despite being highly educated, faced employment challenges when his training was not recognized when he immigrated to Canada. Like many others, Stan was not aware that his credentials would be devalued upon arrival even though they were valued in Canada’s points-based immigration system. Peter, who was born in Canada, had access to manual blue collar jobs that provided him with enough funds to support his family, yet ultimately chose to pursue his passions in acting and writing which were less lucrative – a career decision that was part of the breakdown of his marriage.   Despite their low income, the health status and mobility of my participants is indicative of their access to public health care throughout their lives. Only two of fifteen elders had an illness that influenced their daily life. This is likely due partially to the fact that they had all been screened for ‘independent’ living, partially because they were in their 60s and 70s (as opposed to 80s and 90s), and partially because of Canada’s public health care system, where the “boomers” were the first to experience many medical technologies that had become legal and affordable. Rose, one of the elders with a long-term illness, explained to me that she has access to free, public programs in the area that allow her to manage her condition while socializing and exercising. Rose is highly mobile, lives independently, and even teaches aerobics for other elders at the Seniors’ Drop-In Program. Even for illnesses that could not be prevented by health technologies, the experience of those illnesses seemed to be more manageable within the context of Canada’s health care services.    80     Evidently my participants are located at interlocking axes of privilege and oppression with regard to age, education, class, gender and health. However, as I will discuss in chapter 3, most experience privileges based on their whiteness. Although they experience economic marginalization, moderated by government funds, social services and affordable housing, nearly all identify as white. Beyond determining their place of birth, classifying their racial and ethnographic features was challenging because of how I asked the interview question: “How would you describe your racial, ethnic, or ancestral background?” This question was not designed to fit participants into particular administrative racial or ethnic classifications, but to solicit information about how they understood and situated themselves. Eight of my elder participants described themselves as white, Caucasian, and/or Western European, while the remaining seven identified as Japanese-Canadian, Canadian, Eastern European (Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish), and Jewish. Only three of my elder participants were men; this was not surprising given that I saw very few men participating in the House’s seniors’ programs and the majority of women living in House subsidized units were women. The majority—thirteen out of fifteen—identified as straight or heterosexual, with one elder presenting herself as “heterosexual open” and one identifying as lesbian.  I also interviewed and spent time volunteering with eleven House staff members. At the time of the interviews the House had a total of thirty-four staff, twenty-two of whom were part-time. Just over half (6/11) of staff I interviewed had been with the House for six months or less. Most worked in food programs, volunteer management, community programs, seniors’ programs, and seniors’ housing—or sometimes a combination of these areas. Three participants held management level positions, including the Executive Director. All eleven staff participants   81   presented themselves as women. Over the course of my fieldwork, I saw no staff members at the House who presented themselves as men. Much like the gendered employment experiences of my elder women participants, the staff at the House were working in a highly feminized industry. It is worth noting that the low-pay and status accorded to community service work in the non-profit sector contributes to the cumulative life course inequalities that make elder women more economically vulnerable and dependent on state funding and social services. In other words, trends that shaped the lives of women staff members in their working years are part of the same systemic inequalities that shaped the lives of the women elders at the House. Much like the House elders, the staff I interviewed had spent time in post-secondary educational institutions. Seven held undergraduate degrees, one held a graduate degree, and four had professional degrees14.  Similar to the elders, the majority of my staff participants identified as white and/or of Western European descent. Seven participants identified as straight or heterosexual, one as “married to a man”, and one as anthrosexual/pansexual. I did not have this information for two participants because our interview was cut short before I asked the demographic questions at the end. That some of our interviews were cut short is evidence of the many competing, sometimes unanticipated, demands that staff encountered on a daily basis.  To recruit interview participants, I put up recruitment posters on House bulletin boards and asked a House staff member to forward invitation emails to staff and elder residents. I also held an open session in a House multipurpose space with coffee and snacks and invited House                                                  14 Professional degree refers to an applied certification.    82   residents to learn about the project and answer their questions. Sometimes, during my volunteer work at the House, an elder or staff member asked what I was up to, and we spoke about the project. A small number of participants enrolled in the project through these discussions. Once I conducted the first few interviews, word of mouth about me spread amongst the elders in particular. I would get clusters of friends contacting me for an interview around the same time.    2.2.3 Qualitative interviewing  I conducted twenty-six qualitative interviews between April and August 2015. Fifteen of these interviews were with elders who reside in the House’s subsidized seniors housing, and eleven were with House staff. Interviews usually lasted between one and a half to two hours, with my longest interview being four hours. Many of my interviews with elders were longer than with staff, because staff would often have events or appointments scheduled closely together. I gave participants the choice of where they would like to conduct the interview. Most staff chose to conduct it in their office or in a private room at the House. The majority of elders elected to conduct the interview in their own apartment, although a small number invited me to meet them at a local coffee shop. I interviewed each participant once, with the exception of Susan, a resident who first met with me in a coffee shop, but then asked to meet with me again in her apartment so she could show me her artwork and her unit.  In line with my epistemological and ontological assumptions, I employed a semi-structured, open-ended interview guide that I followed loosely during interviews to create space for participants to engage with, interpret and respond to my questions in their own words and in ways that were relevant for them. I approached my participants as ‘informants’ (Smith, 2005, p.   83   154-155) who, as they shared their thoughts about themselves and their activities within the context of the House, were also informing the direction of my inquiry by sharing with me their expertise about the ways this institution worked and how they navigated it. This interview structure and my flexible probing during the interviews allowed participants to share with me some of the things that mattered to them, which in turn gave me a new entry point for thinking about how their activities were put together within the House context. However, I remained cognizant that it was not possible for me to fully know “the standpoint of the other person… only into a mediated relationship between us” (Young, 1997, p. 47; Butterwick, 2011, p. 59). My intention in the interviews was to create opportunities for participants to share and produce their work knowledges collaboratively with me. Here “work” is a concept that includes, but extends far beyond, paid employment. I practiced Smith’s more generous approach to this term as “anything done by people that takes time and effort, that they mean to do, that is done under definite conditions and with whatever means and tools, and that they may have to think about” (Smith, 2005, p. 151-152). When collaborating with elder and staff informants to draw out their work knowledges, I looked for their use of concrete and experiential language to describe their daily activities, as well as their interpretations of those activities: “how they think about it, how they plan, and how they feel” (p. 154-155). Interviewing allowed me to probe for this type of information and collaborate with my participants as they produced their experience through language and in response to my questions during our interactions.   In people’s talk about their activities, and how they felt about them, I am also able to identify some of the ways their work is coordinated. When people shifted from experience-based talk to text-based talk, I paid attention. When an elder moved from speaking about how he or she   84   had chosen a program to volunteer with, to speaking about the minimum volunteer hours required of them by the House, I gained insight into broader social relations that their activity was hooked into. As a staff member shifted from discussing an interaction with a participant, to pulling out a piece of paper that listed the survey questions they were required to ask that participant, I learned about the organization of the program and the criteria set out by the program funders. These frequent shifts people made from talking rooted in experience to talking rooted in texts enables me to identify broader social relations coordinating how they did their work.   I do not treat participant accounts as “truths” but as contextually specific productions of experience. Although people often think of experiences as something that has already happened, Smith clarifies that, “experience actually emerges only in the course of its telling, and telling is to particular people at particular times and in particular places” (Smith, 2005, p. 126). Participants presented their knowledge about themselves, their activities and the organization of the House within the somewhat manufactured context of our interviews, but I did not seek to erase or minimize that interview context to overcome bias (Pillow, 2003). Instead, I attempted to consider how this particular context shaped the way their experiences emerge “in language and at the point of speech” which I later transformed into writing through transcription (Smith, 2005, p. 126). In some cases, I can see how the location of our interview shapes what can or cannot be said or be known. When participants invited me to their apartment for our interview, the physical markers of the space, such as the presence of dishes on the counter, allowed the process of making lunch at home instead of eating with the Seniors’ Drop-In Lunch to be articulated within the participant’s account of daily activities. When participants pointed to their home computer to   85   tell me about their plans for the day or week, I could learn about the way they maintained their social activities, such as through email newsletters and online program sign-ups. When I conducted interviews in coffee shops selected by participants, their use of this coffee shop as they navigated the neighbourhood became a part of their account. All of this context, based on the actual time and place of interviews, shaped the data and also became data in itself.  My whiteness might also be a factor in the information people chose to share with me. As I discuss in chapters three and four, many House elders and staff spoke about multiculturalism in a way that assumed whiteness as a neutral and normal default. Would people have spoken based on the same set of assumptions if they were not speaking to a person that they could read as white? My whiteness was also a likely factor in who would chose to speak with me or seek me out for an interview, and what types of issues they thought I might have cared about. For example, Jessica, a staff member who identified as biracial, only shared with me her concerns about racism at the House after I mentioned my interest in intersectional feminism. Furthermore, Susan, a Japanese-Canadian elder at the House, only responded to my interview request after being advised by Jessica that I was safe to speak with. These processes point to the influence that others’ perceptions of me had on shaping the data. I did not treat these reactive effects as a problem or challenge to be avoided; rather, I attempted to become aware of some of these influences and used them as a source of data (Clarke, 1975, p.99). My interactions with certain participants also alerted me to the way some people at the House interpreted my role in relation to their own institutional goals. Some individuals engaged with me as a tool for augmenting their concerns about the House. After being frustrated by staff who they felt were non-responsive, some elders began to see me as a resource, given my   86   institutional location. A small number even called or emailed me after our interview to see whether I had ideas about how they could take action on the issues they raised. As a form of reciprocity, I agreed to produce a short report for participants (both elders and staff) that I will disseminate within the House. This report will be based on the theoretical and methodological insights from this dissertation, but will be concise and policy-oriented in order to maximize its applicability and accessibility for members of the House. I came to realize, however, that there was a disconnect between my own academic timeframe and the timeframe that my participants envisioned and saw as relevant. Some seemed to expect that a report would be ready within a few weeks or months. During the interviews I should have been more explicit in outlining the various stages of the project (e.g., interviewing, transcription, data analysis, etc) and the many stages involved with working through a dissertation.   2.2.4 Participant observation  My participant observation was based on volunteering with the House for eight months (from January to September 2015). I attended a new volunteer training session, underwent a background check, and became a weekly volunteer with the Seniors’ Drop-In Program held every Tuesday. The House was in need of volunteers for this program at the time and I was asked by the volunteer coordinator to assist. In order to become a volunteer I was required to undergo a criminal record check and commit to a minimum of six months volunteering at the House. The work at the Seniors’ Drop-In involved setting up the multipurpose room with tables and festive decorations, preparing the necessary cutlery and dishes, serving and eating food, clearing and cleaning dishes, and any other kitchen tasks that needed to be done on any given   87   day. All of these tasks also included interaction with staff and elder participants and volunteers, often while we cleaned, sorted, ate, and watched the day’s featured entertainment. We worked together to bring each event into being and engaged in discussions about how we did this work. I also attended the Seniors’ Advisory Group (SAG) monthly planning meetings and volunteer training sessions, and the occasional special event the House hosted.   I engaged in ethnographic field research to see what people did in House programming. Through informal conversations I was able to learn about how they thought and felt about what they were doing, often as it happened. Participant observation also opened up to me how people actually participated in the events that some of them talked with me about during our interview. Elizabeth, a kitchen staff member, spoke to me during our interview about the strain she felt as she tried to stay within the Seniors’ Drop-In program budget when making program decisions. Her work knowledge—her understanding of what she is doing and why—was rooted in the importance of conserving institutional funds and making each food ingredient stretch as far as possible. In spending time with her sorting food donations in the kitchen and in watching her respond to volunteers’ food ideas during planning meetings, I could see how she put her budget concerns into action, and, therefore, how she brought this institutional constraint into being in doing the work of program planning. I was also able to see how these decisions shaped the way multicultural meal themes were chosen and delivered, and how, on some occasions, it was the cost of food ingredients that motivated the selection of a particular cultural theme for an event (which I discuss in chapter four).   Additionally, I experienced some elements of programming work myself as a volunteer. My participant observation involved “both being with other people to see how they respond to   88   events as they happen and experiencing for [my]self these events and the circumstances that give rise to them” (Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 1995, p. 2). My own work and my understanding of it came to be structured by House texts, such as training documents and written procedures. I also saw interaction dynamics in the space—who spoke a lot or a little and how the ideas of volunteers were interpreted and engaged with by staff. Observing program-planning meetings helped me learn about the varied ideas proposed by volunteers that were taken up and implemented into programming and the types of ideas that were not. Furthermore, I took directions from staff members, and sometimes took on tasks that staff ran out of time to do, alerting me to staff schedules and needs.  In interacting with staff in this applied setting, I realized just how many different tasks and programs they were working on every single day. I observed staff finishing one program session and getting physically and mentally ready to transition to another. The planning of interviews also became an ethnographic opportunity. Staff often presented their availability to me with reference to other deadlines and times of the month that were going to be ‘tight’ for them; some even rescheduled at the last minute because of unexpected demands on their time. The staff members that I worked the most closely with made comments to me during the Seniors’ Drop-In about how stretched they were. One staff member mentioned that she liked to “vent” with me because I was calm and a good listener, and another noted I was a good “sounding-board”. In some ways, my own self-presentation shaped how people acted around me and what information they granted me access to.  However, working side-by-side with staff for several months created a sense of intimacy and camaraderie that was challenging for me to navigate as a researcher. We went through busy   89   and tense moments together in the course of putting together events, during which staff shared with me their anxieties and stresses. I do not believe they were always speaking to me as a researcher in those moments, but as a community volunteer going through an experience with them. I also think that, despite my explanations early on in my field work that I was researching seniors’ programs and housing, the emphasis on aging as an individualized “problem” within dominant discourses, combined with the frequent conflation of sociology with psychology, meant that some staff members did not realize I sought to learn about and from them and the House as much as I endeavored to learn about and from the elders.  El-Or (1997, p.188) argues that intimacy, while cozy, is illusive or at least transitory in a research context. It is deceptive to suggest that friendliness and cooperation in the field addresses the power relations that shape the research process and that imbue me with the authority to write up the data and represent my participants’ experiences (Wolf, 1996; Naples, 2003, p. 40). Furthermore, the site I was studying is one I was free to leave, which is not the case for my participants who live and work at the House (Naples, 2003, p. 40).  My engagement with standpoint as a method of inquiry addresses some of the issues of objectification and exploitation that shape fieldwork given that the purpose of my work is to produce knowledge that will be useful for the participants themselves by demonstrating how their experiences are coordinated (Smith, 1999). However, this does not mean that the staff will necessarily welcome the connections I draw. Furthermore, and perhaps even more relevant in this context, is that my interpretations of and arguments drawing from staff work knowledges may not be interpreted favourably by upper management. I am, in some cases, highlighting concerns raised by elders about staff, for example. Acknowledging that I am evaluated based on this research within the   90   context of academia while staff members may be evaluated based on my findings within the context of their own workplace, I have tried as much as possible to clarify and emphasize that their daily challenges are rooted in funding structures that coordinate yet exist beyond the House itself. My analytical goal of highlighting systemic rather than individual processes will therefore hopefully also address some of the concerns about the power relations I am implicated in in writing up the data and representing staff experience.     2.2.5 Writing fieldnotes  I draw on my own experiential dialogue15 with others and with myself to transform my surroundings—people, places, conversations, actions, and events—into texts in the form of fieldnotes (Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 1995; Smith, 2005). Throughout each event or meeting I stole away a few minutes to write notes in the bathroom. I wrote my fieldnotes, or ‘inscriptions,’ in a largely intuitive manner (Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 1995, p. 8). What I found interesting in the field, and what I perceived was of interest to the people around me, shifted partially in relation to what I learned during my ongoing interviews. Some of my participants were visible minorities who raised questions and concerns about the multicultural programming at the Seniors’ Drop-In, which led me to want to understand how their experiences were put together. Because I started volunteering at the Drop-In at the same time that staff and elder volunteers                                                  15 In line with Smith (2005, p. 124-25), I draw upon the notion of “experience as dialogue” to highlight the role of speaking, writing, and thinking in processing and producing accounts of experience that are accessible for ethnographic purposes but that provide only indirect access to an actuality. In Smith’s words: “Actuality is always more and other than what is spoken, written, or pictured. What becomes data for the ethnographer is always a collaborative product” (2005, p. 125).    91   implemented the multicultural components, discussions about multicultural themes and events were at the forefront of the meetings I attended. It was this interest in elders’ activity that led me to begin reading about “active” aging, at which point I began to question whether my low-income participants were fully represented in third age literature.   In writing my fieldnotes, I did not attempt to capture every aspect of what went on around me (Warren & Karner, 2010). I paid attention to what was said; who said it; what it meant to them; what they were attempting to achieve; whether their speech was rooted in experience or text; whether physical texts were created, circulated, and referred to; and how people responded to one another through body language. I also tried to capture the more mundane details of the program space and how it was organized: what work volunteers were doing, what kinds of decorations were put up, where participants sat for the meal, and so on. Additionally, I recorded contextual factors such as the time of day, the weather, and the room we were in. As such, I worked to write notes that were detailed and that captured the contexts in which people spoke and acted.  2.2.6 Incorporating institutional texts into my analysis  My methodological approach involves tracing and interactively interpreting institutional texts, especially House policy documents and other texts written in official settings, such as program planning meetings, informal texts such as post-it notes, and texts that I produced collaboratively through semi-structured interviews and through my own “data dialogues” that turn fieldnotes into analytical artifacts and arguments. Texts make institutions ethnographically accessible insofar as “texts enter into and organize sequences of actual people’s actions [that] has made it   92   possible to extend ethnographic approaches into the complex translocal and text-mediated relations that govern contemporary societies” (Griffith & Smith, 2014, p. 10). Texts were all over the surfaces of the house, such as walls and tables. The House itself could be read as a text. Throughout the dissertation I discuss features such as the bulletin boards that lined the walls of the main entrance, the program flyers placed on the table in the “living room,” and quotes and other symbols hung on the walls. I did not seek out texts, but rather took them up as they became visible and relevant to me within the institution. I paid attention to how I and others were called to activate them in text-reader conversations wherein the “reader inserts the text’s message into the local setting and the sequence of action into which it is read” (Smith, 2005, p. 105). To do so, I considered the following questions:   How do I and others become agents of the text?  What information do I and others fill in from our own experiences?   What information do I and others need to seek in order to comprehend the text?  Do I and others need to refer to another text, meeting or place to understand the text?   Am I and others able to identify who the subjects in the text are?   Are there verbs connected to people? Are there nominalizations?  Are broader institutional categories being employed?  I engaged with texts as I encountered them in the House by writing their details into my fieldnotes, often observing how they were drawn upon (and sometimes created) in meetings, and   93   how they coordinated my own activities as a volunteer, as well as the activities of other volunteers and staff.  I considered the ways texts organized program-planning meetings and how staff employed texts to keep the meetings oriented toward certain institutional goals. Additionally, I considered more informal texts that elders produced during meetings (e.g., questions written on Post-Its) and that elders brought to meetings and events (such as a poem that one volunteer brought to one of the Drop-In Lunches). I also watched who produced texts during meetings (e.g., writing meeting “minutes”) and where these texts ended up (including how they were used to coordinate other meetings and program planning at later dates). The pattern that a text moved through and the people it was passed on to (or not) demonstrates how institutional decisions are made and acted upon, and how these decisions are hooked into policies and institutions that are not immediately present. I also noted commonalities between institutional texts around the House and the language that my participants used to produce their experiences during our interviews and our other interactions (for example, the term “participant-led” was frequently written on House documents as well as articulated through participant speech).   2.2.7 Analyzing my interviews and fieldnotes  Due to time constraints, it was not feasible for me to transcribe the interview recordings myself. Instead, I paid sociology undergraduate and graduate students to produce the transcription. I acknowledge that my decision to remove myself from the process of transforming my participants’ speech into written form had downsides, particularly given my emphasis on the materiality and coordinating potential of texts. I realize that I am giving up some control over the   94   way that the often overlooked but important elements of speech are written down, including laugher, pauses, and silences. To account for these omissions or distortions during analysis, I sometimes returned to sections of transcripts that I identified as important and listened to the associated recording to access both the written and spoken version at the same time.   After reading through the transcripts and fieldnotes several times in conjunction with my ongoing research memos, I engaged in a thematic analysis that was primarily inductive (Harding, 2003). However, as I read through the transcripts and fieldnotes and developed codes, I also identified and read relevant literature that came to partially inform how I saw topics in the data, thus blurring the line between inductive and deductive analysis. My aim in this first stage of analysis was to note and develop codes to identify commonalities in the topics or ideas participants are speaking about, such as “income subsidies,” “staff fatigue,” “lifelong learning,” “value of new experiences” and “multiculturalism”. I was generous in highlighting sections of text with the necessary context included from the lines before and after. I used NVivo qualitative data analysis software for this process. I coded my fieldnotes first and my interview transcripts second as I found that my fieldnotes would often guide how I engaged with the transcripts.  Next, I reviewed the codes I developed, deleting and amalgamating some, and noting some of the relationships between them by drawing concept maps. For instance, it was at that point that I began to see connections between the ways elders spoke about the importance of new experiences, learning, youthful aging, and their participation in multicultural activities. I also noted connections between codes such as “staff fatigue” and “staff anxiety.” I deleted these codes and replaced them with the new code “work constrains” which allowed me to incorporate a broader set of staff experiences with an eye for their structural roots.   95   Next, I developed sub-codes within and across the thematic codes. In this second round of coding, I was able to be more analytical by identifying processes participants were engaging in (e.g., “referencing policy document,” “rejecting femininity,” and “assuming whiteness”). I developed these codes while re-reading Smith (2005), which helped orient my thinking to questions such as “Is my participant drawing on embodied experience or texts in making this statement?” and “What must be occurring within the House in order for this statement to make sense?” I began to form the framework for my dissertation arguments through this second round of coding where I was able to start identifying and connecting my fieldnotes and participants’ responses during interviews to the key discourses that were being drawn upon.    When writing up dialogue from my interviews and fieldnotes into the dissertation, I did some minor editing to make the key points clear for the purpose of the analysis. I used the following symbols to denote places where I have modified the text:    […] = content omitted from sentence  …. = content deleted between sentences  … = participant paused while speaking  Furthermore, in presenting quotes I removed certain ‘ums’ that, although sound quite natural in conversation, may be interpreted to discredit the credibility or competence of the speaker when transcribed in text form. In cases where these “ums” seem significant, such as when they indicated hesitance or confusion, I kept them in and made reference to them in my analysis.     96   2.3 Ethical considerations  2.3.1 Reciprocity  In taking up this project one of my goals is to ensure there are useful outcomes for the people who act as participants. Throughout the project I consider what I can offer participants “in return for the time and inconvenience of being involved in [this] research” as a form of reciprocity (Maxwell, 2013, p. 94). I engage in a reciprocal relationship (Kirkness and Barnhardt, 1991, p. 9) in two ways: by changing the focus of the research in the field based on what participants tell me about their lives, and by producing an accessible, actionable report specifically for participants based on the findings. In doing so, I aim to generate knowledge that is useful for the actual people in my study (Smith, 1990). I acknowledge, however, that what participants tell me, and how I understand and act on their words is always a mediated, partial, located process (Naples, 2003, p. 39). Although I was initially interested in elders’ sexuality and intimacy, I often came to find that participants had other issues they wanted to discuss with me that seemed to be more salient for their lives. One of the reasons why the focus of this project shifted so substantially was the way I initially framed my interest within core research documents. I made the decision early on in this project to hedge my interest in sexuality in the way I phrased project documents (e.g., Letter of Consent) as well as interview questions. I chose to use the term “interpersonal intimacy” primarily to allow for a broad interpretation of what intimacy might mean for different participants. This decision aligns with my epistemological interest in conducting inductive research that creates spaces for participants to situate their experiences somewhat removed from preexisting academic categories coordinating the literature I had access to. What I did not realize   97   at the time, was that “interpersonal intimacy” was read by many participants as such a broad, vague and somewhat academic term that many had little sense of what the project was about. As participants tended to reorient the interviews to issues that seemed more relevant for them, I broadened my focus to an intersectional analysis of gender, race, and class in the third age. This decision was partially ethical, in that I was able to demonstrate reciprocity to participants by listening and responding to the unique ways they answered my questions. It was also methodological in that I considered the standpoint of my informants and allowed their experiences to shape and direct the research.   Some participants engaged with their interview time as an opportunity to voice a variety of concerns that they had about their involvement with the House. The open-ended nature of my interview questions and my flexible probing, combined with my weekly on-site volunteering and interactions through the Seniors’ Drop-In Lunch, allowed numerous opportunities for a broad variety of issues to emerge that I did not anticipate (and probably could not have). Given the tight community context in which I conducted this research, what sometimes happened was that participants (and people thinking about participating) spoke to one another before or after their interview, and rumours started to spread about the project. Once one person raised an issue (e.g., racism or the root-top garden), I found that participants in my next few interviews tended to raise similar issues. Some participants mentioned being encouraged by a friend to participate in order to speak about a particular challenge they faced at the House. Many participants, in their decisions about issues to raise regarding their experiences with the House, demonstrated that they saw me positioned as a resource for voicing their concerns. Some called or emailed me in the weeks or months following our interview with suggestions about what could be done, and to   98   let me know that they were planning to take action soon. One participant emailed the professors listed on my consent form in order to request assistance contacting additional people in positions of power. These participants saw me and my association with UBC as a tool to help them achieve their goals in relation to the institution. I find these actions to be useful data about how participants saw me and shaped their narratives for me, as well as how they saw themselves in relation to the House. The active persistence of some of these elders alerted me to the processes of silencing that they experienced through established institutional mediums at the House, and in some cases through their interactions with staff. Although I was not able to address all of the issues they raised (from heating systems to meal ingredients to building acoustics to scent allergies), I became curious about the institutional processes for voicing and addressing these concerns, within the context of power relationships among elders, among staff, and between elders and staff. Since I conducted interviews at the same time as I volunteered, I found that I began to become more attuned to (or able to ‘see’) these power dynamics during my volunteer shifts as well.    I can also reflect on the interpersonal dynamics that enabled, or even encouraged, participants to shift focus away from intimacies and sexualities. Working directly with elders has helped me become more aware of the implicit hierarchies I hold with regard to appropriate interaction between people based on age. Perceptions of when it is okay to speak, interrupt, and redirect are socially established and reproduced in different cultural contexts (Anderson & Leaper, 1998; Mori, 1999; Murata, 1994). Similarly, beliefs about authority based on age differ by time and place (Sung, 2004). I have become aware of these distinctions through my own teaching with new first-year international students, some of whom feel entitled to speak or share   99   their thoughts only once they have fully formulated their idea, or if they are directly asked. Other students cannot get comfortable calling me by my first name, even after I invite them to. My interview experiences for this dissertation exposed some of my own tacit assumptions about age (both my own age and my participants’ age) and gender that I have come to see more clearly in hindsight.  The degree to which the interviews shifted focus was due partially to the need I felt to be deferential at the level of moment-by-moment interaction, despite my more general awareness of my institutionally embedded power and privilege as a researcher. Sometimes this meant letting participants speak for longer than I may have if I were speaking with someone my age. Other times this meant that I did not redirect the conversation as assertively or persistently as I could have. On occasion, I felt discomfort when probing or asking questions about intimate relationships that suddenly came to feel immensely personal, and even taboo. Despite my time spent reading sociology of sexualities literature and discussing sexualities concepts in academic contexts, when I was seated in my participants’ home I sometimes came to feel that I was violating social norms by asking them questions about sex or sexuality, particularly since they were from another generation. My hesitancy could also be linked to my own implicit perceptions of the asexuality of elders (or perhaps more accurately, the pressure I felt to conform my speaking to a status quo that reaffirms this logic). I also noticed that I was more deferential to the elder men than women. My behavior was both in response to and also a contribution to the production of participants’ own gendered behavior. Some elder men, for example, would begin telling me about themselves and their concerns even before I had asked them to sign the consent form or started the recorder. Many elder women, however, paused during their responses and   100   asked if they were speaking too much, or if they were answering in a relevant way. I always reassured them that there were no relevant or irrelevant answers.    Overall, I made an effort to listen for what was most important and valued by my participants in combination with what I observed through my participant observation. I gradually reorganized my focus and analysis according to a new set of issues connected to discourses of the third age, senior-driven programming, and managerial efficiency. Although this was unexpected and created more difficulties for me, I am confident that this shift has allowed me to produce knowledge that is more relevant to my participants in identifying how their situations are organized, and how they are situated within broader social relations (Smith, 1987). In future projects I will consider being more explicit and forthcoming about some of the topics I am hoping to cover, both in research documents as well as throughout the interview process. This wouldn’t necessarily be an attempt to impose them on participants, but to ensure that they had a better sense of my own academic background and initial goals (which I think some of my participants did not). Having said that, this situation created new opportunities for me to pursue, and I embraced these opportunities in line with my methodological orientation. At the same time, however, I would not recommend that other graduate students shift the focus of their doctoral research so drastically. As Smith (2005) emphasizes, all research projects are conducted and written by actual located people. Graduate students must be cautious about the duration of their degree and their ability to support themselves financially. While research that is highly attentive and adaptable to the interests of participants is valid and useful, faculty with more institutional security and funding may be better positioned to pursue this work within its associated timeframes.    101   The second and more simple  way I am engaging in reciprocity is through writing a concise report for the participants based on my findings. I will write this report informed by my theoretical and methodological approach, but will not explicitly foreground these aspects of the project to the same degree as I do in the dissertation. Given the length of the dissertation, I think it will be more accessible and useful for participants if I write a concise summary of the findings and implications (between ten and twenty pages). Given that there are complex power relationships within the House, I will first circulate the report draft to my elder participants for their feedback. I would like to ensure that they are comfortable with the report and feel that it is accurate before I circulate it to the staff, given that the elders are tenants of housing that the staff manages, and so have particular and vulnerable interests at stake.    2.3.2 Confidentiality  When conducting research in such a small organization, maintaining the confidentiality of participants is crucial and often difficult. At the institutional level, I have changed the name of the Neighbourhood House to “Spruce House"—a pseudonym—and generally just refer to it as ‘The House’. Because participants can easily identify one another, I also employ participant pseudonyms and gave participants the option of choosing their own pseudonym during our interview. Additionally, I take steps to further protect participant identities, for example by reporting elders’ ages based on decade of birth rather than year of birth. For staff, I report their role in the organization in a general way where possible. For instance, I do not specify exactly how long they have been working at the organization, but instead make statements such as ‘this participant began working at the House in the past six months.’ I find it challenging to generalize   102   certain identifying details while retaining the relevant context and depth. When possible and appropriate, however, I avoid identifying whether particular elders were program participants, program volunteers and/or House residents, thus broadening potential interpretations of ‘who said what’ for individuals at the House who may read this work. At some points in the dissertation I also use the terms ‘visible minority’ and ‘person of colour’ rather than specifying a person’s ethnicity or race. Given that there are so few racial minorities at the House, my referencing an individual’s particular background would likely single them out. On some occasions I do specify a person’s race or ethnicity (as they self-defined it) where it is necessary to fully understand their experiences and concerns. In these cases I considered whether the information I was including about this individual was something they had not yet shared with others staff and elders at the House. If the information was private yet had the potential to identify the speaker, I did not write about it explicitly in the dissertation, but retained its presence more generally as it informed my analytical arguments.   2.3.3 Reflexivity  Feminist qualitative methodologists question and propose alternative ways for conceptualizing and addressing the perceived separation between researchers and those they research (Naples, 2003, p. 38). Wolf (1996, p.2) argues that power relations within research operate in three overlapping dimensions: through ways of writing and representing, through potentially objectifying research processes, and through power differences rooted the social locations of the researcher and her research subjects. Standpoint as a method of inquiry addresses objectifying practices in the processes and purposes of generating knowledge (as I discussed earlier in this   103   chapter). However, I must still interrogate how my own positioning shapes my thinking about this research and my participants, and how participants may have interpreted my presence and background.  Throughout the dissertation I insert myself by discussing my decision-making at various stages of the project. I do so not to overcome or limit ‘bias’ by ‘confessing’ in order to retain objectivity and neutrality (Pillow, 2003), but rather to identify how I am complicit in the co-production of knowledge with my participants (Smith, 2005). Research is always generated from somewhere, and in this case my own positionality, assumptions, and theoretical and methodological orientations shape how I produced this work.   My interest in the experiences of elders in an institutional setting was prompted by my own awareness, curiosity, and desire to prepare myself for my parents’ transition into old adulthood. I recently became my mother’s Power of Attorney and the Executor of her Living Will. These legal statuses bring with them a sense of responsibility and prompt me to contemplate my parents’ mortality as well as my own. I anticipate remaining in Vancouver with my parents as they continue to age. I will likely take on primary care-giving duties and be involved in decisions about whether, how, and in what organizational contexts they may receive support. As such, it is useful for me to learn about organizations such as the House that provide programs and housing for elders in Vancouver. In this sense, my interest in the project stems partially from my personal experiences.   I have also observed my parents creating ‘new’ lives for themselves in their late 60s and early 70s. Both have entered new romantic relationships since their divorce, developed new social circles, cultivated active social lives, limited their engagement with paid employment, exercised regularly, and pursued travel. My mother told me that she feels like a “teenager” again   104   in light of her new romantic relationship. My father became a vegetarian at sixty-five precisely in order to provide his body with what he sees as the best fuel in order to stay healthy. Having recently turned thirty and taken on the responsibilities of a mortgage and an academic job, I see what could be in store for my post-retirement years and it brings me hope. Witnessing my parents’ life transitions alerts me to the ways that some members of the “boomer” generation take up aging. My experiences with my parents inform my own thinking about this project. However, it was only when I began engaging with literature from social gerontology and the sociology of aging that I acquired the language to describe the third age discourse, which I have now come to see as a discourse both enabling and constraining how elders experience their aging. In speaking more with my father about his recent vegetarianism, for example, I can see how this decision is at least partially a response to his internalization of his interactions with medical professionals and the health literature he engages with, through which he is positioned as individually accountable for aging ‘successfully’. While this is a decision my father made out of a quest to live fully, it is also one made out of fear of decline stemming from a variety of sources.   In writing about aging in old adulthood, I write about participants’ experiences in ways that I appreciate and can engage with as an empathetic listener, a curious scholar, and a daughter to elder parents, but that I do not necessarily fully grasp in an embodied sense. While my body certainly is changing in ways I do not welcome, and although I see people my own age in advertisements selling anti-aging creams, the narratives of age and aging for my generation at this point in our lifecycle are distinct. Nevertheless, I, too, will experience old adulthood (at least I hope to!) and I plan to do so while living in Vancouver (the city I was born in). In this sense, I   105   am studying a phenomenon that I am removed from, but that will structure my experience in the future, likely also in ways that are generational. Furthermore, drawing on the feminist political economy of aging perspective, I am now better able to see how structured experiences of oppression and privilege cumulate over a lifetime (Estes, 2001). In exploring the gendered aging of my elder participants, I can also see how my own life activities, opportunities and constraints will potentially shape the resources and social networks I have in old age. Given that I have different daily experiences from my participants, however, my goal in this dissertation is to respect their words and actions by positioning them as ‘informants’ (Smith, 2005). I trust their enormous knowledge about seniors’ programs at the House and how these programs are organized. In conducting my analysis and writing up the data I have attempted to stick closely to their words and the context(s) in which they were spoken while situating their activities within the broader discourses and structural conditions they are informed by.   It is also productive to consider not just how I was positioned in relation to my participants, but how they interpreted me. Given that we often discussed multicultural programming, as I noted above my whiteness could have influenced how different participants produced their experience during our interviews. I found that different participants presented vastly different interpretations of how multicultural programming at the House was implemented and how it should have been implemented. Sometimes, these different perspectives corresponded to a person’s racial or ethnic self-identification, with people who identified as white communicating to me primarily what they saw as positives and benefits of multiculturalism at the House. This difference may have stemmed from their own positioning in relation to multicultural discourses in Canada more generally. Nevertheless, participants’ responses were   106   also a feature of the co-construction of their experience through our interview. Smith is explicit that “what becomes data for the ethnographer is always a collaborative product” (Smith, 2005, p. 125). In other words, experiences that are to become ethnographically accessible emerge through various forms of dialogue. Although experiences happen in people’s everyday activities, the way they are interpreted, categorized, communicated, and attached to meaning through language emerges through the telling or writing of them, which is done in a specific place and time for an actual or intended listener/reader and context. In Smith’s words, “experiential writing or speaking orients to the occasion, the speaker’s and hearer’s interests, the social act in which it engages, and the speech genre that is operative for that occasion” (2005, p. 126). As such, participants’ ability to read me as white may have informed what they thought I was interested in and/or what they thought could be said safely and unproblematically within the context of our interview. Furthermore, I found that my participants of colour were hesitant to critique the multicultural program until after we had established rapport and I continued to demonstrate my interest in their perspective. My whiteness may have also influenced who sought me out for an interview; there are still some residents I have not met and who did not contact me at any point16. Through this dissertation I attempt to highlight processes of co-creation of experience through my interpretation and presentation of my textual data.   Another issue that requires my reflexivity is my positioning within the House. As an external researcher taking up an additional role as a volunteer, I sometimes found myself pitted between elders and staff. Elders who were concerned about the organization of the House and its                                                  16 I interviewed fifteen of thirty-seven elders who reside in the House subsidized housing.   107   programs shared with me some critical insights they had about staff, sometimes making themselves quite emotionally vulnerable. I felt myself becoming immersed in these interviews and taking up aspects of their affect, even becoming angry with the situation on some occasions. In these moments, I took to writing fieldnotes about the emotions elders shared with me and my own emotional responses as a way to document them but also to work through them productively and to orient them for analytical purposes. In interpreting the sometimes-tense relations between elders and staff, I shifted from placing blame to considering how staff themselves were constrained in their work. It was through this process that I laid the foundations for chapter four, where I consider how staff work was organized within the House, taking into account how limited time and funding orients their daily activities.  Lastly, some participants may have drawn upon and activated the House’s institutional categories in responding to my questions, captured by the ways that multiculturalism was written about in program flyers and the House website. Many staff members were new to the House and may have felt a need to establish their legitimacy in relation to the institution rather than air concerns they may have had. It is important to note that work at the House was done in the context of a high rates of staff attrition that appeared to be a feature of the many part-time, grant-based positions. I therefore reminded myself that the way staff spoke about the multicultural components of the Seniors’ Drop-In Lunch may be a reflection of their attempts to demonstrate their expertise about the program by replicating the way it was spoken and written about in institutional texts, including my own perhaps. I realized this while reading through the interview transcripts and seeing the commonalities among staff with regard to how they spoke about multiculturalism at the House. If I was to conduct this research again, I would be more cognizant   108   earlier on of the fact that staff may be performing their expertise during our interviews. I would adjust my questioning and, if possible, hold more than one interview with each staff member to build further rapport.   2.4 Conclusion  In this chapter I have identified the interrelated theoretical and methodological approaches I take up in this dissertation. My commitment to developing this work by drawing on materialist feminist standpoint analysis means that I pay attention to texts in various forms, including those that I co-created with participants. My interest in texts shapes how I think about discourse and power, and the way located individuals bring discourses into being. Following Smith (2005, 1990, 1987) I sought to treat participants as informants who had extensive knowledge about their own daily activities as well as the way the House was organized. I work to show respect for and reciprocity to my participants by ensuring that the knowledge I produce based on their accounts is useful for them in outlining the social relations they were situated within. As such, I conducted this work in the interest of making knowledge for people, rather than only for my own career and the expansion of academic management. Having outlined my theoretical and methodological approach, I now turn to presenting my key arguments in the following chapters.    109   Chapter 3: The third age discourse and multicultural activity    I first made the connection between youthful conceptions of aging and multicultural activity during my interview with Katelyn, one of the women elders residing at the House who initially suggested incorporating multicultural meals and entertainment at the Seniors’ Drop-In Program. She explained her motivation for this change as she “wanted to do multiculturalism.” Katelyn understood multiculturalism as an activity, as something to be done. This interview prompted me to think about what this activity meant for her and the other elder volunteers and participants. What did they achieve through their involvement with this program? How did they situate themselves within this multicultural activity? What did it mean to them to take up multiculturalism as an action? Through these conversations, I began to consider the connections between elders’ activities and House programming, particularly for the elder women who were the majority of program organizers and participants. Although the Seniors’ Drop-In Program was a House program that required significant work by staff, I became curious about the work that elder women did in volunteering and participating in this program. As Griffith and Smith (2014, p. 11) caution,  In those institutional settings where services are provided to clients, we should remember that, using the “generous” conception of work, those who are served are also working; they put in time and energy and are active in the actual local settings as they engage with or are caught up in an institutional process. (emphasis in the original)   110   With this point in mind, in this chapter I take up the standpoint of House elders—women in particular—to consider how they thought about and engaged with the multicultural lunches at the Seniors’ Drop-In Program.  I begin this chapter by showing how the elders I spoke with at the House drew upon a generational conception of aging, embedded in the professions and industries catering to and producing aging, in a way that responsibilizes seniors to make choices to age in a way that is not ‘old.’ The third age discourse that they drew upon is largely a departure from the way aging has been conceptualized for past generations. My elder participants overwhelmingly presented this time in their lives as one of new opportunity, stimulation, exploration, flexibility, and freedom. I show the way these elders’ conceptions of aging were constrained and enabled based on their income, wealth, gender, and race, as well as their generational access to Canadian social safety net programs. These elders are one of the first generations to benefit from Canada’s safety net, including targeted subsidy programs for older adults, many aspects of which were put into place during their lifetime. Many of these government programs did not exist for the generations previous to them, and may not remain as robust for the generations that come after them.  Programs related to income, housing, and healthcare access have created conditions for some of these older adults to experience themselves as thriving and active in ways they deemed fulfilling. However, their small amounts of accumulated wealth and minimal ongoing engagement with regular, paid employment mean that these older adults also navigated fixed, subsidized incomes. As my participants constructed narratives of their life stage and daily activities as productive and satisfying, they did so in ways that differ to some extent from those found in the marketing images and texts targeted toward wealthier members of their age group,   111   often oriented around consumption and ‘snowbird’ and travel lifestyles. Because these elders were on fixed incomes and had minimal funds to spend on non-essentials, their forms of consumption and activity were done in affordable, accessible contexts. At the Seniors’ Drop-In Program, elders pay $4.00 per session to consume a meal, to participate in a short aerobics exercise session, and to be entertained by various performers. The elders I spoke with at the House presented themselves as ‘active’ through their contributions to, participation in, and consumption of local, low-cost opportunities through community events, activities, and interpersonal networks.  Their experiences are gendered in a variety of ways. First, the Seniors’ Drop-In Program, the subsidized seniors housing, and the House itself were occupied almost exclusively by women. There were only three men who lived in the seniors housing at the House and only up to three or four men who attended the Seniors’ Drop-In with any regularity. That more women are present in these accessible, affordable community programs is likely related to lifetime inequalities leaving women with less income and wealth in retirement (Calasant & King, 2011) and more likely to be single and/or widowed than old men (Gee & Kimball, 1987; Russell, 2007; Spector-Mersel, 2006). Also shaping this situation are gendered discourses about women’s responsibility for care work and giving back to the community in informal, unpaid ways. Interestingly, although organized community activities designated for “seniors” are often rejected by old men who prefer to engage in activities designated for “all ages” outside of institutional seniors’ facilities (Davidson, Daly & Arber, 2003; Russell, 2007), the women at the House did not seem to hold the same perception. Old women who lived at and came to the House were able to draw upon their activity in this seniors’ program using narratives of independence   112   and freedom—narratives that elicit versions of aging distinct from those of the fourth age (more often associated with dependence and decline). As I will discuss in chapter 5, the small number of old men at the House did not participate in the Seniors’ Drop-In activities in the same way as the women, suggesting that this program was taken up by elders in gendered ways, intersecting with class and race.   One of the activities that elders often discussed, and that I had observed first-hand at the House, was the multicultural meals and entertainment at the Seniors’ Drop-In Lunch.  In the latter half of this chapter I focus on the multicultural meals in particular. I trace how low-income House elders, most often white women (who constitute the majority of my participants), presented themselves to others and me in relation to the way they spent their time. I argue that many of my elder participants constructed themselves, and conceptions of race and ethnicity, through their House activities. In doing so they drew upon a generational and gendered conception of aging through which they presented themselves as accessing productive, fulfilling stimulation through multicultural programming. In developing this argument, I pay specific attention to the way elders described what ‘multiculturalism’ is and how they positioned themselves in relation to it, keeping in mind their own racial and ethnic positioning. I suggest that some of these elders understood multicultural programs at the House as a way for them to access ‘exotic’ experiences in an affordable, local context, thus achieving a version of the third age on a budget.    113   3.1 The life of their times: Historical foundations for “boomer” aging experiences  As mentioned earlier, the “third age” is a relatively recent way of conceptualizing what is seen to be a new stage of the life cycle during which individuals have reduced responsibilities, such as paid employment and/or family care activities, yet still have sufficient resources and health (Marshall, 2011), which “provide a context for self-fulfillment, freedom, and purposeful engagement” (Weiss & Bass, 2002, p. 29). Within academic discourse as well as media representations and aging professions, the third age is held up as an ideal with a specific set of criteria. In this section of the chapter I show how this ideal emerged throughout the lives of the “boomer” generation, and is hooked into the organization of seniors’ programming at the House. Within mainstream media, one current example of the third age discourse is suggested by the term “zoomer.” During my interview with Jane, a House resident in her early 70s, my eyes skimmed over a ZOOMER Canada magazine placed on the table where we were seated in her apartment. The cover featured a photo of Jane Fonda with the caption, “The master of reinvention on finding happiness at 77” (ZOOMER, 2015). Other than the magazine title, the largest letters on the page read, “Going strong: The science of longevity now. How to heal your brain, renew your body and enrich your spirit”. If I were to do that interview again, I would’ve asked Jane about the magazine. That text, however, did not mean much to me in that moment as I spoke with Jane. When I saw the same issue on display in my mother’s home a few weeks later, I began to think about the way old adulthood is portrayed in the institutional texts produced by advertisers, financial advisors, medical professionals, self-help gurus, and even scholars in the social sciences. I realized that in order to explicate how elders do the work of multicultural programming at the House, I would need to trace how their thinking and acting relate to broader   114   aging discourses that they draw upon and produce in this specific institutional context. These elders spoke about their lives in ways that were distinct from the way my grandparents had spoken about theirs. My grandparents, who were born in the early 1900s and 1910s, were fond of speaking with me about the past. They divulged exciting things they had done and the bonds they had cherished with others. Elders at the House also sometimes spoke about the past, but they did not linger there. They drew on the past primarily as a jumping off point for discussing their future: what they wanted to see and do next. My own parents, who have pursued new relationships, social networks, education and travel opportunities in their late 60s and early 70s, also alerted me to shifting idealized conceptions of older adulthood that inform the aging processes of the generation often labeled the “baby boomers.” My mother and I have rented blockbuster movies, such as Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and It’s Complicated (2009), and the popular show Grace and Frankie (2015) on Netflix, all of which feature wealthy white women and men in the pursuit of new life adventures no longer constrained by familial responsibilities and financial considerations that had occupied their earlier adulthood.  The founder of ZoomerMedia, Moses Znaimer, defines “Zoomers” as “The demographic of active people aged 45 plus…. Boomers With Zip! People age 45 plus who enjoy life to the fullest” (Revie, 2014). The term “Zoomer” is situated within the context of the “boomer” generation (which I discuss in more detail below), but is seen to be an elite subculture of older adults who do not accept traditional narratives of aging as a time for slowing down or declining. On the contrary, these are elders with “zip!” who take steps to live “life to the fullest,” perhaps more so than at any other point in their lives, given the mass amounts of wealth marketers imagine they have accumulated, and the lack of responsibilities they are believed to be settled   115   with (Revie, 2014). Zoomer Media was founded in 2008 to create “information, entertainment and experiences uniquely designed to serve the world’s largest and most affluent generation—the 45-plus” (Zoomer Media Limited, 2016). The website boasts, “Open a newspaper, turn on the television, read a blog … It’s likely you’ll find yet another story about the enormous power and influence of the 45-plus population—the people who are literally reinventing aging”. The Zoomer Media site claims that it is individual forty-five plus people who are “reinventing” aging. This begs the question of the role of media, industry, and academia in producing this life-stage, and the associated consumer market it claims to only reflect and describe.   In a 2014 Ontario newspaper article entitled, “A Boomer is a Zoomer if they want to be” the author, who is also a “motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer,” explains that how one ages is a choice to be made: “Growing old is optional and life is definitely worth the living—Zoom!” (Revie, 2014). Throughout this piece the author positions getting “old” not as a biological fact, but as an unfortunate outcome for people who do not appropriately self-regulate and seek to achieve a new conception of aging associated with active, healthy, social living:  Zoomer Boomers strive to keep moving, be exhilarated by life, enjoy the moment, seize opportunities, care about their own health and well being…. Zoomers are trend-setting Boomers who are breaking new ground, redefining aging and reinventing retirement. (Revie, 2014) A recent post on the “Everything Zoomer’s” Facebook page, managed by the administrator, is an image of an old white woman with long blond hair and a beach towel walking toward the ocean. The caption, in large blue capital letters, reads, “THIS IS WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING TODAY” (Everything Zoomer, 2016). On the one hand, this is a generic image and a generic   116   phrase. Who would not want to go to the beach on any given day? However, when interpreted within the context of the “Zoomer” as a compulsory choice for successful aging, individuals’ daily decisions come under greater scrutiny and the verb “should” becomes much more prominent: “This is what I should be doing today” in order to make “growing old … optional” (Revie, 2014). In the article mentioned above, “A Boomer is a Zoomer if they want to be,” the author continues on to list the things “Zoomers” do to achieve their “zip”:  Zoomer Boomers possess several longevity traits focused around health and well being. These traits include things like: monitoring health risks; daily exercise including aerobics and neurobics; calculating daily nutritional and caloric needs; cultivating a large social support system; spirituality; positive self-image; sound retirement planning and a passion for living life to the fullest. (Revie, 2014)  Older adults interested in achieving this promised “passion for living life to the fullest” are instructed to cultivate a variety of intentionally structured self-monitoring habits, including employing scientific precision in identifying and managing health challenges and working on a positive-self image through neurobics—mental exercises undertaken to maintain an “active” brain by creating new neural pathways. This advice is echoed through featured articles in the May 2016 ZOOMER Magazine, where elders can learn the “6 Steps to Age-Proof Your Body” (Everything Zoomer, 2016).  The Spruce House texts and programming also reproduced versions of these daily habits for elders. Targeted seniors’ programs included activities such as walking, exercising, socializing, cooking, and learning new things. Most program descriptions had an emphasis on meeting new people, often while exploring new activities or places. For instance, one program that I was involved in was the Healthy Living Program. This weekly meet-up organized by the   117   House was described in the program poster as a “weekly walking and healthy snack group” (The House, 2015). The first picture shown on the poster was a smoothie in a tall glass with fresh blueberries on top. The second picture shown was a group of approximately ten elders walking through a forest. The project was funded, in part, by Vancouver Coastal Health, indicating that that House program was tied into the coordinating logic of governmental population health administration systems. The text on the poster noted that participants would learn to make snacks such as, “quick, refreshing and yummy green smoothies” as well as “our own healthy dips” to accompany “fresh vegetables.” House elders also drew upon the third age discourse in how they organized their daily lives through regular activity and health regiments. For example, Kristof, an elder man in his early seventies, explained the high physical and aesthetic standards he held himself to based on his belief that he was not and should not yet be “old”:  Kristof: I’ve never contemplated on being old and [a] senior citizen myself so in that spirit, I never give up on the idea that I’m still [an] active, younger individual and I’d like to believe that everybody else is.  Katherine: How old are you in your mind? Kristof: In my mind?  Maximum forty-five. Katherine: What is it about forty-five? Kristof: Just a safe number when people, they don’t claim they’re getting old. Forty-five[-year-old] people probably celebrate their birthday as “oh I’m mid-age, mid-life”. No, forty-five is just [a] fictional number.  I couldn’t really—I had to think of it because if I told you really then you would say, “Oh man, this man is a   118   dreamer or naïve” because in my mind, I am at twenty-six. And that’s what I expect from me physically, independently, and aesthetically— although I am very realistic. I know I have no hair. My body is not the same [but] there’s no excuse [for] slowing down to such an extent that the people are using walkers or cane[s] when they could really recover by yoga [and] physical fitness. [….] There’s values today [that] shouldn’t be from the Victorian period [where] your grandchildren should take care of you. [I’m a] twenty-first century man. [my emphasis] Kristof positioned himself as having the mentality and self-expectations of a forty-five-year-old, or even secretly a twenty-six-year-old. He drew on these numbers because they signify a time in life when individuals “don’t claim they’re getting old”, indicating that he did not want to position himself as someone who was aging or “old”. He clarified that although his body is “not the same” as it was in his earlier years, he did not feel that was an acceptable “excuse” for “slowing down”. Instead, Kristof held himself to particular physical and aesthetic expectations that allowed him to retain his independence. The contrast he drew between what he “expect[ed]” of himself and what was “realistic” suggests that he actively self-regulated in order to challenge and minimize signs of aging. Kristof characterized his approach to aging (or not aging) as distinct from previous historical periods where people believed “your grandchildren should take care of you”. In contrast, he strived to remain active, independent, and youthful—values he felt distinguished him as a “twenty-first century man” rather than a man aging in an earlier time period. However, Kristof and several other elder men at the House limited their engagement with   119   the Seniors’ Drop-In, interpreting it as a feminized and “old” program—a finding I return to in chapter five.     Kristof was not alone in articulating a conception of older adulthood that is distinct from that held by previous generations. It is crucial to situate my participants’ understanding of aging within broader generational trends defining aging in new and unique ways. I began by noting the rapidly changing structural conditions that occurred alongside the lifecycle of the ‘boomer’ generation and that have come to shape their aging in the context of the third age discourse. Individuals born in Canada, the United States, and some countries in Western Europe in the 1940s and early 1950s—the generation commonly identified as the ‘boomers’—experienced particular structural shifts post World War II (Gilleard and Higgs, 2002, 2007; Myles, 2005). Although these structural shifts occurred at slightly different times throughout many nations in the Global North, the 1960s are widely seen as a pivotal period that influenced many members of this generation (Gilleard and Higgs, 2002, 2007; Marwick,1998; Owram, 1996; Palaeologu, 2009; Palmer, 2009). The ‘boom’ within ‘baby boomer’ has several meanings. One is the massive population growth that occurred between 1945 and 1965. In Canada, 8.2 million babies were born during this time, with an average of 3.7 children per woman (or approximately 412,000 babies per year) (Statistics Canada, 2011). In contrast, only 377,886 babies were born in Canada in 2008 to a population that was twice the size (an average of 1.7 children per woman)17.                                                  17 However, in Japan, the ‘boom’ had a different, fatal meaning associated with the United States dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, instantly killing 80,000 and 40,000 people respectively, with 100,000 more people dying in the following months from radiation poisoning. As such, the narrative or growth and prosperity following WWII in the West stands in contrast to, and was partially produced by, unimaginable violence. Furthermore, the ‘boom’ can also be seen as a characterization of the coming threat of a nuclear bomb during the arms race of the Cold War.    120   Another ‘boom’ for Western nations, such as Canada, was economic: the changing structural conditions associated with low unemployment rates, increasing domestic expenditure, and greater educational opportunities (Badley et al., 2015, p. 42 – 43; Gilleard & Higgs, 2007, p. 14). It is important to note, however, that the ways members of this generation in Canada were situated in relation to these structural conditions were shaped by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. Although these societal changes did not influence all members of this generation in the same way, they did create conditions for the production and reproduction of the third age discourse in media, professional, and academic texts. Given the age characteristics of my participants, I focus on the experiences of the older ‘baby boomers’ (OBB) born between 1945 and 1954 (Badley et al., 2015). Younger ‘baby boomers’ (YBB) were born between 1955 and 1964 and experienced a different set of structural conditions. Canadian sociologist John Myles (2005) contrasts the “good lives” of this generation against previous “unlucky” generations, such as people who experienced old age in the 1950s:  The elderly cohorts of the 1950s were poor because they had poor lives. Born at the close of the 19th Century, their youth was marred by World War I and their working years straddled the Great Depression and World War II. They were poor not only because public retirement plans were ungenerous, and private plans underdeveloped, but also because they were “unlucky” generations. By comparison, today’s retirees are relatively affluent mainly because they had good lives. They are the children of high industrialism. Their early careers straddled the booming post-war decades. They generally enjoyed job security and rising real wages over most of their lives, and as a result, accumulated substantial savings   121   and resources, not just CPP benefits. Compared to their parents, today’s retirees, these children of high industrialism, had “good lives.” (Myles, 2005, p. 1) Through this example, Myles demonstrates the importance not just of one’s age, but one’s generation. Although age may structure inequalities at any given time, the notion of generation allows sociologists to consider how particular experiences structure the aging process for socially significant groups. Being seventy years old in Canada in 1950 is not the same experience as being seventy years old in Canada in 2015, given the significant trends these different generations experienced throughout various stages of their lives, including older age.   Like other scholars of generation, however, in this statement Myles implicitly conceptualizes generation as a form of social organization that cuts across the population, whereas systems of class, ethnicity, and gender are seen as divisions between groups. Gilleard and Higgs (2007, p. 14) make this distinction explicit in their claim that “the horizontal divisions within society such as cohort, age group and generation have had considerably less attention paid to them [by scholars] than the vertical divisions of class, gender and ethnicity.” Rather than focusing on the ways that generation intersects with other socially structured locations in mutually constituting ways, Gilleard and Higgs position generation as somewhat distinct from these other factors. This divisional rather than intersectional approach is a tension I encounter when reading intersectionality scholarship in relation to some of the literature on the third age (for example, see Weiss & Bass, 2002) Through this dissertation I demonstrate how my participants’ experiences fundamentally intersected with age, class, race, and gender, with an emphasis on how they produced these locations in generational ways in the third age.     122   As I noted in chapter two, Mannheim (1970/1950, p. 401) argues that the potential for a generational entelechy, or a new essence or style, to emerge increases with significant structural changes taking place during the generation’s adolescence: “Early impressions tend to coalesce into a natural view of the world. All later experiences then tend to receive their meaning from this original” (Mannheim, 1970/1950, p. 389-90). As such, the cultural and economic conditions occurring in the youthful years of any generation may inform their consciousness. However, although all individuals have a generation location by virtue of being born in a particular time and place, a certain set of conditions is required to turn this generation location into a generation as actuality through which members develop a sociologically meaningful consciousness (Mannheim, 1970/1950, p. 394). The time and place in which one is born is a necessary but insufficient criterion. The primary condition is rapid structural change, or what Mannheim called the “tempo of change” (p. 400-01), creating a unique set of problems and orientations for a new generation that distinguishes its thinking from previous generations: “We shall therefore speak of a generation as an actuality only where a concrete bond is created between members of a generation by their being exposed to the social and intellectual symptoms of a process of dynamic destabilization” (p. 395-96). The greater the shifting societal conditions, the more significant the unique generational entelechy developed in response (1970/1950, p. 402). Of course, not all members of a generation as actuality will think and respond in the same way to the “historical problems” of their time (p. 396). In fact, there may be profound disagreements and inequalities, for instance, when members of the same generation participate actively in competing social movements. However, what Mannheim finds notable about these disagreements is that they are oriented around the same set of debates or motivating challenges;   123   different generation units are responding in different ways to the same foundational issues that structured the early years for members of this generation (Mannheim, 1970/1950, p. 396). Gilleard and Higgs (2000, 2002, 2005, 2007) have written extensively on the ways in which the “boomers” constitute a unique generation. Their work demonstrates that the “tempo of change” (Mannheim, 1970/1950, p. 309) experienced by people born from 1945 to 1955 in Western nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, is significant given the fundamental economic and cultural shifts that occurred post-World War II. These rapid changes—shaping the impressionable adolescence of the “boomer” generation—were spurred by economic growth, technological innovation (particularly in communications and health care), mass marketing, expanded consumption patterns, youth-oriented social movements, and the development of government social safety net programs (Badley et al., 2015; Cheung, 2007; Huffman, 2012; Janssen, Dechesne, & Van Knippenberg, 1999; Marwick, 1998; Owram, 1996; Ozanne, 2009; Palmer, 2009; Smith & Clurman, 2007). These are key structural features of the “boomer” generation that took root during their youth and that continue to inform their aging process. The significant changes documented during the 1960s align with Mannheim’s criteria for a sociologically significant generation. Building on Mannheim, Higgs and Gilleard (2007, p. 19) encourage scholars to use the framework of ‘generation’ analytically in order to grasp the unique social location of the “boomers” as shaped not just by “the time of their lives” (i.e., age) but by “the life of their times” (i.e., generation). The production and circulation of third age texts goes hand in hand with the targeted marketing that has tracked the “boomers” into their current life stage. In the post-war years, leisure and entertainment industries expanded, along with mass communication technologies,   124   and marketing strategies targeting niches based on life stage. A powerful imperative to consume and distinguish oneself based on taste, lifestyle, and purchasing patterns emerged as the “boomers” entered their youth (Gilleard & Higgs, 2007). The connection the “boomers” experienced between economic prosperity and a growing culture of consumption is one that is particularly relevant to consider in relation to their aging processes.  This discussion, however, needs to be grounded in its ethnic, class, and cultural specificity. Despite the way generation is discussed in a generalizing way in some of the literature I cite, it is important to note that the broader economic upswing in Canada and the associated imperative to consume did not affect all young people in the same way. While women’s labour force participation rates began to rise dramatically in the 1960s, labour market earnings for women who worked full-time full-year were approximately 54% of men’s earnings (Fortin & Huberman, 2002, p. 3). Given that women who worked full time (still a minority in the 1960s) received just over half of the compensation that men did, and given that wives required a husband’s signature to open a bank account until 1964, women’s consumption habits remained contingent on their access to (white) men as partners or fathers. It is also incorrect to assume that shrinking inequalities in the 1960s were linear or lasting. While the wage gap between white women and women who identify as visible minorities or Aboriginal began to decrease in the 1970s and early 1980s, it began to grow again in the late 1980s and 1990s (a trend that parallels changes in the wage gap between white men and Aboriginal and visible minority men) (Pendakur, 2002).  To put the post-WWII prosperity narrative into context, consider that 1960 was the first time that Aboriginal Canadians were able to vote without relinquishing their treaty rights and   125   status under the Indian Act. I highlight this specific example to clarify that I am not making a claim that all people born in Canada in the 1940s and 1950s experienced cultural and economic shifts during their adolescence in the same way. My interviews with elders at the House focused primarily on their current activities rather than their past activities. My data do not allow me to make an empirical claim about how these elders experienced their youth and the societal changes taking place at the time. It is certainly possible that they did develop into a generation as actuality (Mannheim, 1970/1950, p. 394) during adolescence; however, this is not my focus. In order to make these claims I would have had to build questions into my interviews about their living conditions in childhood and adolescence, their consumption patterns, their participation in and perceptions of social movements, and so on. Given this limitation rooted in the way I designed and conducted my qualitative interviews, I am able to confirm that the majority of my elder participants shared a generation location based on being born in the same nation in the same time period (twelve of my fifteen elder participants were born in Canada). I am also able to consider how they talked about what aging in older adulthood meant to them. The way they spoke about aging with me indicated that they shared a particular understanding of the third age rooted in new experiences, personal growth, and unconstrained opportunities (or the perceived ability to overcome constraints). They worked to age in a way that was “not old”. I am not able to identify when this way of understanding their lives formed for each of them. However, I refer to historical events in this chapter in order to connect the developments in industries, such as communications and marketing, to the growing capacity for texts of the third age to be produced and circulated by institutionally embedded “experts”. Below, I trace cultural and economic events that occurred alongside the lives of the “boomers”.   126   Given their size, the “boomers” were the target of marketing campaigns throughout their lives, with a notable increase as early as the 1980s as the oldest boomers were nearing middle age:  Although structured by income, education, ethnicity and gender, a mature market started to reconstruct middle age. A growing number of self help books and an expanding array of anti-ageing products, nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals ”designed” to ward off the signs of old age began appearing in bookshops, healthfood stores and pharmacies (Gilleard and Higgs 2000). Life stage emerged as an increasingly significant source of market segmentation at the time when the participants of post war youth culture were reaching midlife and some members of its advance vanguard already retiring. Making visible this “invisible consumer market”, the market was starting to target the over forties/over fifties with a variety of lifestyle products that promised “looking and feeling healthier happier and more beautiful than ever before” (quotations from the September 1982 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, cited by Friedan 1994). (Gilleard & Higgs, 2007, p. 18-19) Due to the size of the “boomer” generation, and the expansion of mass communications and consumer culture that accompanied their youth, the advertising industry has followed this generation throughout their lives and has both shaped and reflected their aging process through the promotion of youthful slogans and products targeted to life stage. As Gilleard and Higgs argue above, what was unique about the representation of aging in prominent 1980s marketing was that middle age was presented as a new beginning and an opportunity to be better “than ever before,” in stark contrast to anything associated with being “old”. A particular conception of   127   successful, youthful aging was presented within dominant media representations as a desirable outcome of individual consumption preferences and lifestyle choices.  Some scholars associate this emphasis on perpetual youthfulness with the legacy of prominent social movements of the 1960s: student protests, Quebecois separatism in Canada, civil rights, the second wave of the women’s rights movement, changing sexual mores, and ‘Flower Power’ counter-cultures—often influenced by U.S. social movements, such as the anti-Vietnam protests (Badley et al., 2015, p. 42 – 43; Ozanne, 2009, p. 133). Gilleard and Higgs (2007, p. 17) posit that these frequently youth-led movements amounted to “disdain and a dislike for all those who had maintained and managed existing society,” culminating in a generational rebellion against previous cohorts. Members of the “boomer” generation are seen to have “reinvented” youth culture (Huffman, 2012, p.6) first as a subculture (Brake, 1985) and then commodified within a mass culture characterized by an “unwavering determination to not get old” (Smith and Clurman, 2007, p. 24). It is this notion of “growing younger” that became fundamental to commercialized representations of aging targeted for this sizeable generation later in life (Janssen, Dechesne, & Van Knippenberg, 1999, p. 153). It is important to note, however, that generational conceptions of agelessness, immortality, hope, and other ways of believing in the possibilities of having a future, are gendered and classed. In the U.S. context, Fine & McClelland (2006) argue that racialized and impoverished young women are denied the ability to imagine their futures, while Warner and Swisher (2015) document that youth of colour are much less likely to believe that they will live to see middle age. For example, the authors note that in the United States, only 50% of the Black youth in their sample believe they will be alive at age thirty-five. Optimistic beliefs about the future can drop   128   when compounded with immigration status. For instance, only 37.66% of foreign-born Mexican teens in the same study reported believing they would live to age thirty-five.  Various professions and industries have incorporated the third age conception of aging in a way that does not just identify and respond to, but actually produces an idealized version of aging that is not “old”. Consider the rise of experts and services surrounding seniors’ sexuality, for example. Seniors have long been conceptualized as asexual or post-sexual, yet recent scientific developments promoted within the medical and therapeutic industry have reimagined particular versions of youthful, phallocentric, sexual functionality as central to successful, active aging, thus responsibilizing individuals for seeking out appropriate biomedical (“antidecline”) interventions (Marshall, 2011, p. 391-93). These interventions are tied to a shifting conception of the life course, which can no longer be understood solely based on the categories of childhood, adulthood, and old age (p. 393-4). On the contrary, individualized choices regarding consumption, work, and leisure mark the third age discourse where “sexiness” becomes an important means of distinguishing oneself as “not old” (Marshall, 2011, p. 393-4). The concept of sexual “health” has developed alongside the medicalization of older people’s sexuality more generally over the past fifty years (Marshall, 2011, p. 395). In the nineteenth century, the body was seen to consist of a limited amount of resources for sex, including semen (Hall, 1992). Sexual decline with age was seen to be a natural, unavoidable process. The end of reproductive potential was assumed to come with decrease in sexual activity. However, what was once known as penile “impotence” has become medicalized as “erectile dysfunction”. Marshall (2011, p. 396-98) points out that Viagra, which was introduced in 1998, has seen such success that there are attempts to expand its market. Men are now being prescribed Viagra at younger and younger   129   ages. Medical researchers are also working to develop similar sexual enhancement products for women. Scholars approaching the third age from a critical perspective often consider how terms such as “sexual health” and “successful aging” are intertwined with consumption, the medicalization of sexuality, the sexualization of aging, bodily regulation, and heteronormativity (Calasanti and King, 2005; Clarke et al., 2003; Marshall, 2011; Marshall and Katz, 2002). The conflation of sexual function with sexual health, and sexual health with successful aging, has led to what Marshall (2011, p. 392) calls “virility surveillance,” where individuals and their care providers enact a form of sexual regulation, in which older people are “encouraged to continually monitor their sexual function, and physicians are encouraged to ask their older patients about their sex lives as a part of routine health checks”. As assumptions about sexual functionality for older adults continue to shift within health promotion discourses, expectations of the life course after age fifty-five are also changing, along with particular forms of policing. Emily Wentzell (2006, p. 375) summarizes: “to encourage older individuals’ sexuality while demanding that their sexual performance meet universal phallocentric norms is to create a situation in which older people cannot be properly sexual without medical intervention”. Low-intensity policing is not limited to sexuality, however. Expectations about appropriate ‘third age’ behaviour extend to all potential forms of decline or dependency, and may be connected to anxieties about the ‘burden’ of financially supporting such a large aging population, in combination with the predominance of neoliberal discourses and declining support for the welfare state (Estes, 2001). Writing out of Ontario, sociologist Stephen Katz (2000, p. 136) suggests that within the context of neoliberal agendas, programs are developed to   130   “‘empower’ older individuals to be active to avoid the stigma and risks of dependency”. Katz argues that a long history of gerontological research has problematized aging and made it the subject of various administrative and professional processes dictating compulsory activity for older adults, reminiscent of what Ekerdt (1986, p. 239) deemed the “busy ethic” through which elders morally legitimate their transition to retirement by engaging in leisure pursuits that are “earnest, occupied, and filled with activity”. In contrast to this compulsory activity, inactivity is associated with failure, dependence, illness, and isolation, consistent with anxieties surrounding age-based decline:  As neoliberal antiwelfarist agendas attempt to restructure dependency through the uncritical promotion of positive activity, they also problematize older bodies and lives as dependency prone and “at risk.” It is not only the medical and cultural images of an active old age that have become predominant, but also the ways in which all dependent nonlaboring populations—unemployed, disabled, and retired—have become targets of state policies to “empower” and “activate” them. The older social tension between productivity and unproductivity is being replaced with a spectrum of values that spans activity and inactivity. To remain active, as a resource for mobility and choice in later life, is thus a struggle in a society where activity has become a panacea for the political woes of the declining welfare state and its management of so-called risky populations. (Katz, 2000, p. 147)   131   Elders’ choice of activities has become an accountability mechanism through which individuals are seen to make choices as consumers in order to avoid getting ‘old’ and becoming a drain on resources.  This accountability mechanism was perhaps magnified for some of my participants who lived in subsidized seniors’ housing at the House. Some of these elders made connections between their housing and their self-concept. Gladys, a seventy-year-old woman who grew up without significant financial means, explained that even without a lot of money she never before felt that she was ‘dependent’ until moving into the housing at the House:  I’m being subsidized. So if you’re being subsidized, and yeah I know that feeling—that I’ve heard that kind of said of other people. That attitude is out there and I’ve always thought, “But you don’t know the whole story”. You know when people talk about street people or homeless people or mentally ill people, there is a lot of lack of understanding of what’s going on. But it’s the first time that I’ve felt that I was on the other side.   Gladys connected this form of subsidy dependence to other forms of risk and judgment associated with street involvement and mental health challenges. The imperative to make “good” choices may be compounded for older adults who feel they are “on the other side”, now the recipient of what they perceive to be scrutiny and evaluation.  In a sense, forms of ‘activity’ were built into the requirements of the House’s seniors’ housing itself: residents were selected based on their history with community involvement and were expected to volunteer a minimum of five hours per month at the House as a condition of their housing. All volunteers were required to develop an online profile and to track their   132   volunteer dates, hours, and activities electronically. Tracking volunteer hours allowed the House to demonstrate to their funders the degree to which they had a community impact. Within this context it was not surprising that elders at the House stressed narratives of activity. A final factor to consider regarding elders’ presentation of activity was the contingency of their housing on their ability to live independently. This subsidized housing was only for seniors classified as ‘independent’. Should an older adult no longer be deemed fit for this classification, he or she would have had to move to a different facility.  What is challenging about the structure of the subsidized housing at the House is that while it fosters active, independent living, these are also prerequisites in order to qualify in the first place. Given that ‘active’ aging is itself socially organized so that more marginalized populations have less access based on factors such as income and health, these groups are also less likely to be eligible to apply for subsidized seniors Housing at the House. The requirement that applicants be from or connected to the neighbourhood, while fitting the NH’s place-based mandate, may shape the applicant pool based on those who already have access to substantial privileges. Given the racial demographics18 of the neighbourhood, it is not surprising that the majority of my participants are white. While women are more likely to rely upon social assistance in old age, the majority women selected for this housing are white, heterosexual, have                                                  18 Within approximately a 17 block radius from the House, the largest visible minority resident groups are Chinese (6.2%), Japanese (3.6%), Korean (1.5%), Filipino (1.2%), Southeast Asian (1.1%), West Asian (0.9%), South Asian (0.9%), and mixed race (0,8%) (Statistics Canada, 2011). There are many different languages spoken by individuals who reside in the neighbourhood surrounding the House. Of the total 41,180 residents in the Kitsilano Census Local Area (Statistics Canada, 2011), the largest linguistic groups (based on reported mother tongue) are English (76.3%), French (2.6%), German (1.9%), Chinese (1.7%), Spanish (1.6%), Cantonese (1.3%), Mandarin (1.5%), Greek (1.4%), and Japanese (1%), although there are many other languages reported by smaller numbers of people.    133   higher levels of education than women of their generation, and have few health conditions that interfere with their everyday life. As the literature I discussed above points out, their main impediment to the imagined third age lifestyle is class position structured by lifetime gendered inequalities such as the wage gap.  The third age is not just a life stage made available to a “lucky” generation (Myles, 2006, p. 1), but also a set of expectations for “successful” aging. As participants presented their volunteering, program participation, and other activities to me during our interviews, they also distinguished themselves as active, productive, and successful in the (anti)aging process. It is subtle but telling that some participants, such as Jane, responded to questions about their sense of self by telling me about the activities they were involved in or plan to be involved in:    Katherine: Are there any characteristics that you view as important to who you are? Jane: I want to be involved in community affairs, political affairs and animal conservation…I like to make a, make a contribution, you know, take some action…do something. Either become a trip leader or serve on the committee or work in a group. Jane described how her interest in activities, such as “community affairs”, was one of her desirable characteristics. She defined who she was by discussing her activities. Jane was someone who liked to “take some action [and] do something.” When I asked Jane about her typical day, she talked about how she went about locating activities to take part in:  Katherine: So what’s your typical day like?   134   Jane: Well I keep a calendar on my computer and I look, I get the Georgia Straight every week and I look for stuff going on there and I have a number of websites that I check. Events at UBC and I’m a member of Nature Vancouver and the Meet Up groups so I tend to get up and look at my calendar…. I’m on the senior’s hub group at [the House] so I have meetings. I’ve joined the communications committee there which is the central roles of the hub …. So I look at, I have a lot of incoming alerts and emails so I scan every morning.  Having to do everything from my social groups. Finding out what’s going on, what I can attend…. I also have a calendar of things that I want to get up and do. I play pickle-ball, I play badminton. On the weekends, I’m usually at a Meet Up…. I try to practice every day, the flute, a little bit and I’m kind of an exercise fanatic so I cycle and swim. If I don’t have pickle-ball then I get out on my bike and go to … play in the squash court or go to the community center here.  Jane shared twelve different activities with me that she pursues in response to my question. She mentioned many more during the rest of our interview. The way she produced her experience of her day was oriented entirely around seeking activities and doing activities. Her continuous naming of activities and hobbies was indicative of the work she was doing to produce herself as an engaged, active, healthy person for me in the context of the interview.  Activity also emerged as an important component of how elders relate to one another during the Seniors’ Drop-In Program. Conversations over meals at the Drop-In were often organized around elders sharing stories about what their plans were for the week,or what they did last week. It did not seem to matter what the activity was as much as that the person was “busy,”   135   which was taken to be interesting in itself. In the summer months, elders spoke about overlapping activities they chose between. At the end of one meal, I said, “See you next week!” to an older woman as I prepared to get up from the table we sat at. That led her to tell me about the numerous groups she had joined for the summer, and that she might not attend the Drop-In next week because she wanted to go to the seniors’ walking group if the weather was nice. Staff sitting with elders during the lunch also asked about activities. “What are you getting up to this week?” was a common question they posed to initiate conversation or keep conversation going. They also updated elders on what programs and events were happening at the House that they could take part in or volunteer at.   When speaking about all of the things they were doing, or wanted to do, elders presented themselves as having a newfound degree of freedom and flexibility to meet new people, learn new things, and make socially beneficial contributions. Part of my inductive, qualitative interview approach was to ask participants about their lives and to listen for how they presented themselves and what was important to them. I usually began interviews by asking questions such as, “How did you spend your time as a teenager”, “What have been some important relationships in your life?”, “Are there big milestones that you mark your life by?”, and “What were the key things that have really mattered to you over the course of your life?” We would then move onto questions about their current and previous living situation, social interactions, and House programs, and staff. Through this process I found that many elders contrasted their current situation from their earlier stages of adulthood. In doing so, they tended to emphasize the constraints they faced in earlier decades, and to minimize the constraints they currently faced and imagined themselves facing in the near future. They ultimately framed their current activities and   136   goals as full of new experiences and opportunity—opportunities that they presented as being on their own terms (as opposed to being constrained by the terms of others, which they associated with their recent past).  They tended to explain that they were (or planned to be) engaging in activities now that they were not able to earlier in their adult lives. Some participants identified constraints within the context of their previous marriage, child rearing, or paid employment: all of which are institutions that they were not participating in currently. This was largely the case for my older adult participants since the majority of them currently lived as single occupants in subsidized, one-bedroom housing. Jane, for example, contrasted her current situation with her previous one where she was in an abusive marriage with a husband that influenced and limited her activities and mobility:  I feel like after I got the divorce, I’ve sort of blossomed as an individual and I don’t…I guess subconsciously I just don’t want anybody compressing that again saying ….“I want to do this, you want to do that outside the relationship” you know, “you want to go to these meet ups, and I don’t”….I just don’t want to be wedged in anymore. Jane discussed how she felt she cut off from aspects of herself and her interest in meeting up with new people due to compounding family and economic pressures. She described her new commitment no longer to live in a way that was “wedged in” or “compress[ed].” Jane also presented this period in her life as a time for personal growth and for her to pursue goals that she was not able to earlier. Jane spent much of her adult life taking care of her own children and her children’s children, and moving frequently based on the employment opportunities of her   137   husband. Although she held academic positions at multiple universities, Jane repeatedly sacrificed her career and income in order to support her husband’s and in order to take on unpaid care work for the family. Jane’s husband was frequently between jobs, which meant that Jane and her children spent many years living off a very low income or “living on shoe string” as Jane described. Now divorced, Jane wanted to take her newfound time to practice her social skills and acquire stable friendships:   I feel like my social skills with peers have been kind of atrophying over the years.  I need to umm [join] cycling groups, or hiking groups… perfect those social skills, but I just feel like I need to. I’ve never had close friends who wanted to follow up as I moved from here to there, there to there and around so I am struggling with getting some lasting social relationships established. Here Jane’s language of ‘need’ suggests that she was not driven by just the desire to experience new things, but also by a sense that she should be enhancing herself and her relationships in this phase of her life.  Similarly, House elder Erica saw herself in a unique position that she had not before experienced, now divorced and retired from formal paid employment (although sometimes doing babysitting work in the area):  In my marriage, it was fine. Everything was fine and everything. Then I started realizing I was a spiritual person and I was very controlled by my mother and my husband kind of controlled me. Then all of a sudden I woke up and so then I went in a different direction. So then...I kind of needed time for myself to become a person and when it, then it conflicted with working in an organization. Because   138   it’s just too hard for me to be told what to do when I didn’t want to be told what to do. And I couldn’t really express myself because I would have been fired anyway.   Erica described feeling free from her marriage, controlling relationships with her parents, and the constraints of a workplace where she felt stifled. She interpreted this freedom as an opportunity to “become a person” on her own terms. She started to dedicate her time to growth through interactions with new people and practicing spiritual principles:  Well now, I’m immersing myself in people’s lives that are different than mine.  It wouldn’t be the same as if I had a job, right? And I’m living my spiritual principles….I’m living it and I’m putting myself in society instead of keeping myself away from society.  In presenting her new life focus and activities, Erica drew a distinction between the person she was able to be now and the person she was able to be when she worked fulltime, was in a controlling marriage, and faced constraining expectations from her mother. Afterward, she felt she was “putting [her]self in society,” by taking active steps to meet and spend time with people that she saw as distinct from herself, and by practicing her spiritual beliefs to become the person she wanted to be.   Similar to Joan’s and Erica’s narratives, Peter, one of three men that live at the House, reflected on sacrifices he had made earlier in his life prior to his divorce—sacrifices he now regretted and did not want to make again. Peter described his earlier decision to give up on career aspirations that he found fulfilling (his desire to teach English Literature and go into acting) in order to provide financially for his wife and children through various manual labour jobs. Peter clarified that through these career shifts “I realized that…I had really really seriously betrayed   139   myself.” Living as a single man on a modest subsidized income, Peter explained to me that he tried to only do things he found interesting: debating with his group of male friends (all of whom had different research interests that they discussed), interacting with new people at his part time job, and reading and posting about current affairs in online forums. He described his biweekly friendship group by pointing out each of his friends’ particular research interests:   Katherine: What kind of stuff do you guys do? Peter: We sit around the dim sum offerings at the Seafood Restaurant. They're nice, they're cheap. Four, five of us can eat well for, in um, the split bill is only, you know, $5.50, six bucks, seven bucks…. There's one guy that has a real interest in the failings and corruption of the RCMP. There's another guy that has a great interest in philosophy. Another guy with—interested in science; that's [famous local figure], he's a cartoonist and columnist for the [redacted newspaper]. And various other people as well that come on that have-- And just, most of us we have—Oh, and there's Todd. Todd has an interest in Jungian psychology and also the ins and outs of big finance. And I'm heavy into current affairs, you know…I'm interested in stuff like that.  Peter’s vocal excitement in presenting selected snapshots of his friends, and in one case noting their professional accomplishments, suggests that he took pride and satisfaction in being part of this group that he perceived as intellectually interesting. While Peter alluded to his class income in structuring his choices (“four, five of us can east well for… $5.50, six bucks, seven bucks”), he did not position this as a constraint. Instead, he focused on producing a version of himself as   140   intelligent and capable. He emphasized many times throughout the interview that, “my intellect is the most important thing to me” and that he organized his life around the pursuit of mental stimulation (which he could not do during his earlier adulthood where he had to take on manual labour to support his family). Peter was also negotiating his class position in the details he provided about this activity: he simultaneously noted that he was included in a group of men who he felt were accomplished in their professional and/or intellectual pursuits, and who engaged him in the sophisticated activities of research and debate, yet he also mentioned that the meal was under $10.00 per person. As I will discuss below, the class positioning of this group of elders was unique in relation to dominant third age narratives and required them to negotiate their self-presentation.    Overwhelmingly, when framing their past in relation to their present, my participants discussed some combination of restrictive relationships, overbearing parents, child rearing obligations, work commitments, and financial constraints that they found stifling in previous years. They contrasted these limitations with their current life, which they see as full of enhanced flexibility and opportunity to spend their time pursuing their own personal preferences for the foreseeable future. What was interesting about these narratives, common to many of my elder participants, was the work elders did to present this stage of their life as a time of opportunity (with opportunity meaning different things to different people). For some, this meant opportunity for growth and personal development, for others it meant a chance to pursue hobbies that they could not before, and for others it meant a chance to pursue pleasure. “I can do anything I want” was how Rod, an older man at the Seniors’ Drop-In Program, described his plans for the week to me on a Tuesday in March. He started to tell me about the next road trip he was planning, and   141   then pulled a marijuana cigarette from his shirt pocket and placed it on the table we were seated at. With anticipation, Rod watched me figure out what it was, and seemed to grow a foot taller at my surprised and slightly embarrassed expression. He explained with excitement that he smoked when he was younger, but now he could “get the good stuff, as much as [he] want[s]” because of a medical prescription. Rod invited me to join him outside to smoke after the meal. Although he was speaking about smoking medical marijuana outside a seniors’ event in the middle of pot rich Vancouver, Rod presented the offer as though he had the last ticket for an exclusive, exhilarating event.   What became visible in my interactions with elders was the idealized conception of aging in relation to which they positioned themselves. However, the enthusiasm these elders demonstrated as they discussed their current pursuits toward fulfillment was sometimes accompanied by some degree of anxiety, fear, and pressure. Some elders, for instance, noted just how much time they had to fill, situating their activities as a way of passing time that they would not have otherwise known what to do with. Others mentioned their health and how it was important for their wellbeing that they kept enrolling in social activities and programs, and accepted dinner invitations even when they did not feel like it. Others foregrounded their realization that their years were limited, particularly years where health factors did not significantly limit their activity. Peter showed an acute awareness of how much time he expected to have left: “Here I am, sixty-eight. I’ve got—You know, my father died when he was eighty-four, so, say, sixty-eight, seventy-eight, uh, fifteen years.” Based on his father’s life span, Peter calculated his projected remaining time. He was also explicit, however, about how he wanted to embody his remaining years: “I don’t want to die like my mother died. To have my mind go   142   before my body….Just, you know, leave me my mind. Leave me my ability to read, and my ability to speak. It’s very very important to me.” Notable in Peter’s interview was a lack of fear of death itself, but a preoccupation with how he would age. Peter was not concerned about dying as much as about aging in a way that made him “old”; he wanted to live an active, fulfilling life until the day he passed. For Peter, a fulfilling process of aging required the ability to continue thinking and growing mentally. Jane echoed some of Peter’s anxiety through her ongoing scheduling of activities, typically with numerous activities planned per day in an attempt to boost her social life.   What my participants described is connected to the emergence of the third age discourse. As I detail below, the third age is a term meant to describe a stage of life that has only emerged within the context of relatively recent historical and structural circumstances. However, it is also a discourse that has productive, compulsory implications for ‘successful’ aging. As this discourse has been taken up by academic, professional, government and service industries, it has become more and more of an expectation that my participants take up and position themselves in relation to.   3.2 Armchair travel: Accessing the third age on a fixed income   Central to dominant conceptions of the third age are the significant financial resources (both individual and national) needed to create the conditions for an imagined unconstrained conception of aging. Given that access to this idealized version of older adulthood rests largely on material resources, to some extend the third age may be dismissed as a class-based phenomenon of “well off ageing” (Bury, 1995 cited in Gilleard and Higgs, 2002, p. 371).   143   However, when considered in relation to cumulative lifetime inequalities structured by interlocking oppressions, the third age becomes knowable as a discursive ideal that some elders have more access to than others, yet that regulates the experiences of a diversity of old adults.    Echoing Myles’ (2005, p.1) assertion that there are “lucky” and “unlucky” generations, it is crucial to note that class position has different implications depending on one’s generation location. Throughout their lives all of my participants were individuals who sold their labour, some performed skilled and semiskilled work, and others took up sex segregated professional positions in health care, social work, and education. Some of my women participants also engaged in substantial unpaid domestic work for their children and/or previous partners (all of my participants are currently single). What my participants have in common is that they currently engage in no paid employment or minimal paid employment. Some work part-time in jobs that pay close to minimum wage (with some activities, such as babysitting, officially unreported yet disclosed during interviews). They have also accumulated savings and assets that total under $100,000 (or at least were able to present themselves in this manner at the time that they applied for the House senior’s residence). They have no control over the means of production and therefore have little to no personal passive income or assets to sell.   However, as boomers, they were the first generation to grow up with the infrastructure for a social safety net in place related to health and economic welfare. As children, they were the first to access medical treatments such as antibiotics and immunizations (Badley et al., 2015, p. 42–43). They were also the first adults to be able to obtain oral contraceptives legally. In their young adulthood, they saw the implementation of universal provincial health care coverage between 1946 and 1961, the old age pension in 1952, the Canada Pension Plan in 1965, and   144   Guaranteed Income Supplement payments in 1967. Indeed the “boomers” are the first generation to have entered adulthood with this social safety net as an expectation. To have a small income, minimal savings and/or health challenges as an elder citizen of Canada in 2015 is different than for someone facing those same constraints as an elder citizen of Canada in 1950. Structural conditions are such that aging is no longer necessarily equated with a low standard of living, as has been more often the case in the past. Statistics Canada documents that the number of seniors living below the low-income-cut-off (after tax) in Canada dropped steadily—from approximately 30% to 5%—between 1977 and 2009 (Murphy, Zhang & Dionne, 2012). This decrease is partially attributable to the Canada Pension Plan targeting older adults.  This context for the economic components of aging is crucial for understanding the experiences of my participants. My sample is largely composed of people who came of age during booming post-WWII economic conditions and are highly educated for women of their generation but did not accumulate or retain substantial savings or assets into their later years, largely due to structural gender inequalities organizing work and home, combined with the economic implications of divorce for women. Many of my participants identified themselves as low-income, and indeed participated in means-tested programs and services. Most received monthly Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) payments from BC Housing and all lived in subsidized housing at the House. They also accessed public health care and the Canada Pension Plan. Some with illnesses reported being connected to free or affordable services that they noted made their health concerns more manageable such that they did not interfere with their daily life.  The elders in my sample were low-income but relatively privileged and fortunate in their ability to connect with formal and informal community resource hubs, such as the House Seniors   145   Resource Centre (SRC), in the heart of this West side Vancouver neighbourhood. This social and geographical privilege was compounded by their access to social safety net programs that were not as fully developed for previous generations, and may not be as robust for future generations. For members of the boomer generation who are positioned to access and navigate available resources and institutions, class position does not necessarily have the same implications as it does for individuals at other generation locations. Although there are still significant discrepancies between older adults with regard to material wealth and access to resources, overall this generation has and continues to experience better economic conditions than some of their predecessors. Overwhelmingly, my participants reported that, within the context of their particular economic conditions, shaped by generation, class, gender and race, they were living a lifestyle where they had flexibility to make satisfying choices about how they spent their time. However, central to their accounts was their acknowledgment and negotiation of the financial constraints they faced. Given the value placed on new experiences, idealized conceptions of the third age typically include the desire and ability to engage in various forms of travel (Jang & Cai, 2002) – an expectation that my participants demonstrated their familiarity with. In the 1990s, companies, marketing agencies and researchers associated with the travel industry began focusing on elder populations as a key market demographic. Old adults, previously depicted as less mobile within institutional texts, became a focus of research and marketing, even as access to travel (much like other aspects of active and consumption-based ageing) continued to be mediated by mobility, health, education, income, marital status, and rural/urban residency (Dardis, Sobernonferrer & Patro, 1994; Hong, Kim & Lee, 1999; Zimmer, Brayley & Searle, 1995). Research in the journal   146   Tourism Recreation Research in the late 90s noted the following in relation to the baby boomers: “the present and future potential of older markets is not small by any measure. Many of these seniors will be capable, both financially and physically, of taking holiday trips” (Cleaver, Muller, Ruys and Wei, 1999, p. 5). Canada’s Inspired Senior Living magazine claims that, “travel is at the top of the list for seniors and the aging baby boomer generation” (2016). Labelled the ‘grey’ or ‘senior’ tourist market, old adults are predicted to be the “fastest and largest potential market for the leisure and hospitality industries” (Hyde, 2015, p. 338; Jang, Bai, Hu & Wu, 2009; Le Serre, 2008; Prayag, 2012; Huang & Tsai, 2003). In fact, marketers and the media have re-framed their targeted marketing for the “55 plus” based on notions of enhanced activity, often targeting the ‘young’ old who are perceived to be more wealthy and youthful (Hyde, 2015; Metz & Underwood, 2005; Moschid, 2009).  Travel was a common dream or expectation articulated by many participants, yet in the same breath they would note that they likely would not be able to travel due to financial limitations. It was common for elders to speak about travel during the Seniors’ Drop-In Program. This was sometimes precipitated by travel presentations as the entertainment for some of the lunches. As I have noted, each lunch was accompanied by a short aerobic exercise session and some form of entertainment. Three times during my period of volunteering various community members presented PowerPoint slideshows of their travels around the world. What I noted, however, was that these travel presentations were given by only elder community members, but not by elder residents of the House. I became aware of the implications of a wealth gap between the elders attending the lunches. Community members who lived in the neighbourhood typically seemed to have more disposable income. I started to notice that some elders routinely wore the   147   same outfit, while others wore a different outfit and accessories at each lunch. Subtle cues also became evident through conversation. During one lunch, I was eating with a group of older women who were discussing whether it would be useful to have a speaker come in to discuss estate planning. Two women at the table in their early seventies explained that they had already taken care of their estate planning. One of these women noted that she had already secured a living will to ensure that her children would have access to her assets, in addition to being able to make legal and medical decisions on her behalf, before her passing. A third participant at the table, also in her seventies, stated that it was much too early to begin this type of planning. A fourth woman in her mid-seventies, who lived in the House residence but did not participate in an interview with me, stated disinterestedly, and somewhat dismissively, that she didn’t think she would need something like that as there wasn’t too much to take care of. This comment ended the group discussion. Although to some extent these discussions were about medical decisions, they also concerned wealth and perceptions of the complexity and size of one’s estate. I became aware that the House residents, who were required by BC Housing to have an income under $38,000.00 and assets under $100,000.00, were often in social environments at the House where they interacted with other elders from the community who displayed signs of substantial wealth (though not necessarily in liquid form, as was the case for some elders who owned free-standing houses in the neighbourhood).  During conversations about travel over lunch, some of the elders shared their previous travel stories and others shared their future plans. During some of my interviews with House elders, participants acknowledged an expectation that their retirement years were a time for travel, and they simultaneously explained why they would not be travelling. Judy, for example,   148   told me that her son would like to see her travel, but that she was not willing to do so since she could not afford the cost and did not want to place financial strain on her loved ones:  I’d like to do those things but never at the cost of my family or my friends, you know. My son would always say, “Do you want to go some place? Do you want to go?” I said, “You know what, when I think about going I don’t think about places, I think about people.”  I don’t have any interest in travelling and seeing the pyramids… [I’m] really just people oriented that I…it’s really important to me.  Judy negotiated a tension during our interview. She acknowledged wanting to travel and identified how her son appeared to expect her to travel. She also noted that she could not pay for that herself and did not want to be a financial burden. In order to position herself as making active choices, she reoriented the focus from travel to people: “When I think about going I don’t think about places, I think about people.” Judy also turned her interest in other people into a descriptive character trait: she was “people-oriented”.  Throughout our interview Judy described to me her financial situation and need for loans to pay off debt. She walked me through the barriers she faced in getting rid of her debts. To do so, she described a hypothetical situation where she asked for a travel loan from the Bank of Canada. In this imagined scenario, the bank asked for her age, income, and time at present and past addresses. Judy told me that not only would her loan be denied, but the bank staff would also be “still laughing” long after she provided her responses to their questions. Although presented in a lighthearted manner, the way Judy described the bank’s imagined interpretation of her social location and resources spoke volumes. Judy was aware that members of her family,   149   such as her son, held an image of what her golden years should have been like, yet she also was acutely aware of her inability to achieve this vision due to her limited financial resources and lack of access to institutions that could provide these resources. To navigate this situation, she redefined her own interests from places to people.  An interesting pattern I noted at the Seniors’ Drop-in Program and during the interviews was the connection between travel and travel companions. On more than one occasion the Seniors’ Drop-in travel presentations were given by straight elder couples who traveled together. Because the majority of my participants lived in House seniors’ housing designed with single occupancy in mind, I ended up speaking with many elders who were single. Given that household income is often lower for individuals than couples, and given that women’s income is likely to decline after divorce or widowhood (Statistics Canada, 2012), it is not surprising that almost all of the House units were allocated to single women (with the exception of two single men and one male-female couple). Many of the elders I interviewed, who lived alone and/or were not dating, commented that travel would be more feasible if they had a partner who could act as a travel companion and could help supplement some of the costs by sharing accommodations. During my interview with Jane I asked about her interest in a relationship and she responded by talking about wanting someone to travel with through affordable means of transportation and accommodation:   I would love to have someone to travel with. And I’ve discovered housesitting and umm I do love travelling. Not necessarily romantic partner but just somebody who’s compatible with travel. Going to new and interesting places and staying there for weeks and doing a good job housesitting or, I just don’t have the   150   financial world at all to just travel and take umm that’s why I mentioned housesitting unless I do things like camping.   Jane clarified that she was not particularly interested in a romantic partner, but would have valued a travel companion. Her response cannot be understood without paying attention to its financial undertones. Jane noted that she loved visiting unknown places that were “new” and “interesting.” She was intentional in attempting to meet this goal even when faced with financial constraints. Jane was prepared to do housesitting, or if necessary, to pursue lower cost options, such as camping.   Other participants noted that they were interested in travel, but that they strived to meet their ambitions locally. Gladys mentioned throughout our interview that she had always wanted to travel through Europe. She said,  It’s not even a goal anymore. It’s just a dream. Just something that—it was always kind of in my mind that maybe someday I would do that but I’m not sure that—that I will be doing that. I think that Vancouver is a wonderful place. Canada is a wonderful place. There’s so many great things to explore here even just going to different parts of the city here….I like chair travelling. I go to a lot of travel shows. Gladys’ response is noteworthy in that she reframed her interest in travel as a dream rather than a tangible goal. Having been raised in a low income environment, and then working in a low paying, feminized job for the duration of her adult life, Gladys did not feel it was financially possible to travel on her own, despite her long term interest in doing so. She provided some indication of the way she managed this discrepancy between her dreams and what was doable.   151   She described reorienting her focus toward Vancouver by exploring different parts of the city. Gladys used the term “chair travelling,” where she was able to stay in one spot but felt she had been exposed to new and interesting experiences through local events such as travel shows.    As low-income members of the boomer generation, many of my participants demonstrated an awareness of social expectations about what retirement and successful aging should look like. Some participants appeared to respond to these external and internal expectations by redefining retirement. Some responded to the expectations that family and friends held for their “golden years” by reimagining what was important to them. Others strategized ways to travel affordably, such as through road trips, house sitting, and camping. Some turned their attention locally, emphasizing the opportunities to explore new things, sometimes even while remaining in the same chair (“chair travelling”). Consistent about these accounts is that these elders felt some financial constraint in relation to their peers, to beliefs they held about this stage of life, or to the expectations of their social networks. In the next section of this chapter I build on Gladys’ notion of “chair travelling” to look at how elders interpreted and experienced multicultural events at the House. I argue that, in navigating their financial constraints, many of my participants sought affordable access to new and interesting experiences through local events and interactions: the accessible exotic. In the next section I show how elders drew upon and position themselves in relation to local events and interactions they described as multicultural.     152   3.3 The accessible exotic: Doing multiculturalism in the third age  Perhaps just as intriguing as the quest for new, affordable experiences are the types of experiences these older adults described. The majority of the older adults I interviewed alluded to this time of their life as an opportunity for continued learning and growing. Many elders framed meeting new people that they perceived to be different from themselves as particularly interesting and rewarding. Several elders mentioned the value they placed on interacting with people from racial or ethnic backgrounds that they perceived to be different from themselves.  Earlier in this chapter I introduced Peter, who described learning and being mentally stimulated as crucial to his daily life. Peter had a circle of men that he met and debated with twice per week. He also had a part-time job at a local entertainment venue. When I asked Peter about his job, he did not emphasize the money he received from this employment, but instead described the “nourishment” he got from his interactions with his coworkers from “all over the world”. Remarkable is how Peter emphasized his co-workers as “alive” and “growing”—two descriptions that stand in contrast to his fear of mental decline:  Katherine: Do you have other social activities that you do? Peter: I work [in the entertainment industry], and that gives me a chance to get out. I've always got my social nourishments from work. And [my job] does that…. My friends are there, and they're young people, and they're alive and they're growing and they come from all over the world. There's one from Singapore, there're one from Taiwan, there's one from China, there's one from Mongolia, there's one-- you know, there's one from…. [trails off]   153   Peter described the mental stimulation he enjoyed when discussing ideas and experiences with people that he perceived as foreign and interesting. He listed coworkers from a variety of places: Singapore, Taiwan, China, and Mongolia. Toward the end of the response he was not able to name any more geographical areas, but gestured his hand toward me to fill in when he had no more words, perhaps positioning me as another white-looking Canadian, to suggest that I knew what he attempted to refer to: people from places that are different from “us”. In any case, it is significant that he placed such value on interacting with people who he perceived to be different from himself in relation to age and nationality.  There is overlap in Peter’s response between intellectual engagement, cross-cultural interaction, and youthfulness. He relayed his excitement regarding these interactions on the basis that his coworkers were “alive and … growing” almost in direct contrast to his fear of aging in a way that was “old” (discussed earlier in this chapter). Peter’s desire for lifelong intellectual development, in this case through interactions with young people who “come from all over the world,” cannot be disconnected from his desire to continue cultivating his intellect for his remaining years. Throughout the interview, Peter continued to make connections between intellectual stimulation and interactions with others he perceived as different from himself:      What makes me want to spend time with somebody? There's an interaction there, there's a meeting of minds, there's a spark of interest, there's an intellectual equality, there's a…[trails off]. Many years ago, I did some tutoring at [the English Center]. And there was a middle-aged Japanese lady who was writing an essay. And that was a lot of fun, interacting with her, and I can discuss, you know,   154   the Japanese Art, its relation to Zen, and so forth. That was fun. That kind of thing, that makes me want to spend time with a person.   My question regarding what Peter looked for in people to spend time with was initially designed to elicit information about intimacy in elders’ lives. Just as some elders responded to my question about romantic relationships by speaking about their desire to travel around the world, Peter answered by sharing an experience he had discussing Japanese Art and Zen with a Japanese woman. These elders responded to my attempts to elicit information about intimacy and sexuality, but they did so in ways I did not anticipate. They routinely talked about new, stimulating experiences that they could share with others, locally or globally. Peter found a “spark of interest” at an intellectual level by being able to discuss Japanese culture. At that point, Peter’s phrasing became specific when he stated, “I can discuss…. Japanese Art, its relation to Zen, and so forth,” thereby implicitly positioning himself as knowledgeable about the subject, and showing his appreciation for the chance to share his expertise with someone whom he perceived to be interesting given their ethnic background.  House elders of white, Western European descent consistently framed cross-cultural interactions as fulfilling. If we return to Erica, who was raised in Canada and had German ancestry, we can see that she connected her newfound freedom to personal growth through interactions with diverse others:  Well now, I’m immersing myself in people’s lives that are different than mine. It wouldn’t be the same as if I had a job, right? And I’m living my spiritual principles instead of learning more spiritual principles so of course, I’m learning   155   still. It’s more than I’m living it and I’m putting myself in society instead of keeping myself away from society.  When I asked her what it meant to be a spiritual person, she said, “To realize that this person is not what it [sic] seems it is. This world is a place of experience.” Erica connected her ability to learn and apply spiritual principles to her ability to interact with people who were unlike her in some way in order to realize that “this person is not what it [sic] seems.” Erica felt that her current life conditions, such as not having a job, were conducive to this type of exploration and personal development. Her reference to the world being “a place of experience” emphasized the value she placed on interactions with others.   Common to these accounts is the desire for lifelong learning, growth, and stimulation, which these elders pursued through social interaction, sometimes with individuals they perceived to be different from themselves. These accounts mapped closely onto professional and academic descriptions of the third age as “a significant period of good health, activity, mobility, and appetite for new and life-enriching experiences” (Marshall, 2011, p. 393-94, emphasis added). For these older adults, “life-enriching experiences” (p. 393-94) came through particular types of informal lifelong learning rooted in social interaction. Conventional conceptions of the purpose of “learning” presented a unique challenge and opportunity, given that learning in older adulthood usually takes place in ways that are distinct from those acknowledged within the organizational structure of the public and post-secondary school system (Laslett, 1989). Education in the first age (youth to early twenties) is typically associated with socialization and   156   primary skill development while education in the second age (early twenties to forties) is often connected to vocational interests and training (Williamson, 1997, p. 178).  In contrast, education in the third age is seen to be oriented around narratives of self-realization through quests for meaning. Within the context of an information society, lifelong learning is frequently connected to fears of being perceived as irrelevant, outdated, or lacking in utility (Moody, 1986, p.131)—anxieties that older adults, like Peter, harbour in their quest to remain young (Gilleard & Higgs, 2002, 2007). Third-agers, however, are redefining the potentialities of lifelong learning beyond solely a sense of personal fulfillment and continued social relevance (Laslett, 1989; Williamson, 1997). An active conception of aging includes the notion of making a social contribution, although disconnected from more narrow conceptions of “productivity” rooted in the first and second ages. Williamson (1997) suggests that established life course approaches to lifelong learning have been constructed on the basis of and in relation to ageist conceptions of productivity that equate the most useful learning with age-sequential vocational training. These assumptions “reinforce prevailing myths about retirement and ageing as processes of withdrawal and decline” (Williamson, 1997, p.175). Williamson encourages researchers to acknowledge lifelong learning not just as the search for meaning and relevance, but also to allow for third age education to be connected to the potential for productive societal contributions more broadly defined. Ideals about productivity are typically connected to the belief that both older and younger generations are responsible for enhancing the future for generations to come (Williamson, 1997). This imperative for fulfilling, socially-productive learning experiences in the third age takes on an interesting form when situated within the House   157   community-building model. Some older adults connected their lifelong learning to their participation in multicultural community events at the House. Some of the elders at the House that I spoke with depicted multicultural programming and events as a form of informal education rooted in lifelong personal development. Participants who positioned themselves as having white, Caucasian, or Western European heritage and who were born in Canada or Western Europe, were the only ones who took up this way of thinking and speaking. Interestingly, although white elder men and women that I spoke with presented interactions with others perceived as “different” as an opportunity for stimulation and growth, it was primarily women who pursued and formalized these opportunities through the Seniors’ Drop-In Program. This multicultural activity is gendered in that it was only women who actively organized multicultural activities in this institutional program m setting specifically labelled for “seniors.” Men in the third age have been shown to reject structured activities in contexts such as “seniors” centers, which they associated with oldness, illness and femininity, instead pursuing activities perceived as more independent and youthful (Davidson, Daly & Arber, 2003; Russell, 2007). These designated “old” spaces tended to be equated with the dependence and decline of the fourth age. However, many elder women I spoke with at the House also developed third age narratives of fulfilling, productive activity within this structured “seniors” program context. Some elements of this program are reminiscent of the domestic work that scholars such as Gilleard and Higgs (2000) imagine to be outside of, and even constraining access to, the third age. In addition to the Drop-In lunch activities through which volunteers locate recipes, prepare and cook food, serve food to others, and take part in shared meals, the House has a lot of domestic imagery. Some rooms – such as the “living room,” the “crash pad” and the “kitchen”   158   are labelled in such a way that they convey images of “home”. Furthermore, many of the elder volunteers actually live at the House, thus blurring the line between the public and the private that has been so essential to the construction of third age narratives around retirement. That old women take up third age narratives in a program context more often associated with the fourth age is an indication of their gendered positioning within the third age. Old men at the House positioned themselves differently in relation to the program, as I will discuss in chapter five.  The mostly white elder women who planned and participated in the multicultural programming framed it as a personally positive and socially beneficial source of entertainment—an enjoyable way to spend time while breaking down stereotypes. In my interview with Katelyn, for example, an elder who was raised in the neighbourhood and who identified as white, she explained that she was one of the volunteers who initially helped develop House multicultural events for older adults at the Seniors’ Drop-In. Katelyn saw multiculturalism as something she liked to “do” at events. She understood these events as an opportunity for learning across cultural groups where stereotypes may abound. She connected negative judgments between cultural groups to her upbringing, when she was exposed to beliefs and comments that she now identified as racist. Interestingly, Katelyn saw her multicultural activities at the House as an extension of the learning experiences she had as a mature college student:  I was brought up—I didn’t have, I was told that they were not nice people or whatever. For example, a certain culture was dirty because of the fact that they smelled and they eat hot food. Well [now I know] it comes out of their pores. This is what I learned in sociology, actually psychology. I loved it. Anyhow, different things about people and so on, there are different ways of life and their culture.   159   Like, why does a woman in, in um Afghanistan, why does she wear a [gestures to head] a hat or whatever? And why do men have little things on their head, or why do they wear things? Different things about people and what they do and so forth. A lot of people take a negative view and they don’t understand in that culture. I would like to see this [learning] in this group [at the House]. Katelyn operationalized multiculturalism as a set of distinctive behaviors or actions, as something to be done that is rooted in personal fulfillment through learning, and that also has a broader social impact on attitudes and daily practices. The narrative of lifelong learning through participation in multicultural activities was presented as personally stimulating but also a contribution to society by challenging harmful beliefs. Like many of my participants, Katelyn’s position was informed by her whiteness. She positioned her own race as neutral, and sought to learn about the symbols and traditions of others who were “different,” asking, “Why do they wear things?” Erica, an older adult woman with German heritage, also described multiculturalism as an action, based largely on a one-directional show and tell model:  Well…I see there’s Filipinos, Indians, there’s Southeast Asians, Chinese people. They come for programs and stuff and I think it’s an acceptance of their culture and that they can show us their culture. Like the Chinese people had something for Chinese New Year….They had a lot of Chinese stuff going on in displays.  It was beautiful.  Artwork and stuff.  Much like Katelyn, Erica rooted the active components of multiculturalism in the act of learning through social interaction based on cultural display and discussion. Noticeable in these   160   productions of experience is that the speaker (the old adult) situated herself as the primary learner or intellectual consumer in the interaction. Racial or ethnic groups considered as “foreign” to Canada were identified as relevant to learn about by my predominantly white elder Western European women participants (who simultaneously positioned Western European cultural norms as the neutral default). The role of the learner/observer/consumer relied on a racialized “us” and “them” binary. These multicultural activities were framed as socially beneficial but one-directional in that they broke down the learners’ racial stereotypes and spread a culture of “acceptance.” The way these participants presented this narrative also served to make a claim about who they were as older adults; as aging individuals learning and growing in productive ways. Through their choice of activities, these elders distinguished themselves as informed, relevant, and in a state of growth, rather than decline. In ‘doing’ multiculturalism, they are doing a particular version of aging within the third age that was geographically and economically accessible to them. Given that many of these elder women did not travel abroad, they took up “chair travelling” through local, affordable events and interactions as the accessible exotic.   3.4 Positioning white women elders     The ways elders interpreted and took up the multicultural activities at the Seniors’ Drop-In Program were informed by their intersecting social locations. This finding reaffirms the connections between daily experiences and ways of knowing commonly theorized by researchers working in the Marxist tradition, such as standpoint scholars (Harding, 2009, p. 194; Hartsock, 1983, Hill Collins, 1986; Smith, 1987, 1974). While elders of colour articulated critiques of the   161   celebratory multicultural discourse informing the program planning and theme selection, these critiques were not as visible to white elders. In my interview with Susan, one of the few elders of colour who regularly participated in the Seniors’ Drop-in (but not as a volunteer), she explained that the she felt the events were based on “ask[ing] people of colour to sing and dance.” Susan perceived that the multicultural-themed lunches were based on a Eurocentric conception of history perpetuated through the choice of theme and entertainment. She noted that the entertainment was presented in an ahistorical, apolitical way that focused on celebrating cultural symbols rather than learning about the histories of actual people within that culture. In reference to the white elders who selected the multicultural themes, she noted, “All you want is for them to entertain you….[but] you have to know their history….They don’t want to know it because it hurts.” Through the word “hurt,” Susan alluded to the discomfort she noticed when people learn about histories of oppression.   Susan had experienced elders at the House creating and maintaining boundaries between what was entertainment and what was uncomfortable. During one seniors’ outing to Steveston, Susan was asked by the coordinator at the time to share her family history. Since her family was Japanese-Canadian and was interned in B.C. during WWII, Susan shared some of this history with the group during the trip. Afterward, she received some negative feedback from other elders:  I guess some people felt bad or guilty or whatever. That wasn’t my intention…. So somebody…said, “Hey [Susan]! Everyone said the Steveston trip was really wonderful, having coffee and everything, but you ruined the whole trip.”     162   Susan reported that while some of the elders expected a fun, entertaining outing, she was prepared to discuss often uncomfortable issues about historical events and power relationships that shaped her family and upbringing. Susan was born in Greenwood, BC, the small town where her family was forcibly relocated to from Steveston in 1942, along with 12,000 other Japanese-Canadians. Susan shifted the focus of the seniors’ outing from celebration to concrete historical events that took place in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, and therefore “ruined” the event for “everyone”. Susan perceived that her elder white peers were primarily interested in activities that were fun and celebratory, but that did not necessarily involve learning about personal experiences and power relations embedded in systemic inequality, or in Susan’s term, address anything “political.” Susan’s account of her experience lingered in my mind as I sat in on the next Seniors’ Advisory Group (SAG) meeting during which the program coordinator proceeded to follow up on a discussion from a previous interaction that I was not part of. She noted that some Drop-In Program participants had asked her about having a multicultural lunch theme based on a past time period. There was no discussion specifying what it meant or could have meant to take up multiculturalism based on a point in time rather than, or in combination with, a particular culture. One older woman suggested the 1950s and the committee seemed excited about this idea. I became more aware of the implicitly neutral status attached to whiteness through the planning of that 1950s themed meal. In the discussion, there was no attempt to specify how the 1950s was to be interpreted (i.e., the 1950s where? The 1950s for whom?). Although no nation, culture, geographical area, or particular group of people was identified in relation to this decade, the elder women at the planning meeting decided to have burgers and hotdogs (the same meal they   163   chose to serve on Canada Day) and suggested that everyone could wear hair scrunchies and big skirts. Without any questions or further discussion, the 1950s theme was modeled on the 1950s in a white Canadian or American suburb, an interpretation of the ‘50s reinforced by the notes the Drop-in coordinator made during the meeting, which she then took to the kitchen staff and circulated via email to the SAG:  a. [Sandy] suggested wearing the skirts and ponytails that were usual during the 50s and have gum balls as part of the decoration in the tables. b. On the other side, the group discussed some of the next multicultural celebrations at the drop-in. Egypt, Mexico, Phillipines, [sic] and India were some of the countries mentioned as well as Sweden and Peru. These notes are fascinating for the notable contrast they drew between items “a” and “b.” Again, the 1950s location and culture were not specified, but gumballs, skirts, and ponytails were written down as recommended by one of the elders because they were perceived to be “usual during the 50s”19. These visual cues are reminiscent of the Pink Ladies in the popular movie Grease (1978) set in a 1950s high school in the United States. Although never discussed, the default assumptions underlying the planning of this event were apparently so normative they did not need to be named, in contrast to item “b” which consisted of a variety of non-Western countries that were not bound by any time period. Interestingly, the coordinator gestured toward the significant gap between the 1950s event and the other multicultural celebrations, using the                                                  19 For counter narratives of the 1940s and 1950s based on butch/femme queer culture, see Nestle, 1987, 1992; Kennedy & Davis, 2014; Ross, 1993; and Chenier, 2004.   164   term “on the other side” as the transitional language between points “a” and “b,” even though these points were discussed in the same conversation by the same people sitting in the same place during the meeting.   The 1950s event seemed to trigger a sense of nostalgia for many of the SAG planners (Coontz, 1992; Maly, Dalmage & Michaels, 2013; Negra, 2002). The event was described in the following way in the promotional flyer: “Remember when… Celebrating the 50’s,” potentially alluding to the shared conception of Canadian history of the presumably homogenous elders attending the event. At the event, the program coordinator passed out a poem called Dinner in the Fifties that was provided to her by one of the participants and that she approved as a staff member and photocopied:     DINNER IN THE FIFTIES Pasta had not been invented. It was macaroni or spaghetti.  Curry was a surname. A take-away was a mathematical problem.  Pizza? Sounds like a leaning tower somewhere.  Bananas and oranges only appeared at Christmas time.  All chips were plain.  Rice was a milk pudding, and never, ever part of our dinner.  A Big Mac was what we wore when it was raining.  Brown bread was something only poor people ate.  Oil was for lubricating, fat was for cooking.  Tea was made in a teapot using tea leaves and never green.  Cubed sugar was regarded as posh.  Chickens didn’t have fingers in those days.  None of us had ever heard of yogurt.  Healthy food consisted of anything edible.  Cooking outside was called camping.  Seaweed was not a recognized food.  ‘Kebab’ was not even a word, never mind a food.  Sugar enjoyed a good press in those days, and was regarded as being white gold.    165   Prunes were medicinal.  Surprisingly muesli was readily available. It was called cattle feed.  Pineapples came in chunks with a tin; we had only seen a picture of a real one.  Water came out of the tap. If someone had suggested bottling it and charging more than gasoline for it they would have become a laughing stock.  The one thing that we never ever had on/at our table in the fifties   … was elbows, hats, and cell phones!  This poem was written in a way that assumes an experience of the 1950s from an unstated but obviously normative perspective associated with a particular place and point of view (the “our” and “we”). Part of the joke is that insiders would easily recognize the references. The lived experience of Susan and her family, and of the 12,000 Japanese-Canadians who were forcibly moved out of Steveston just three years before 1950, is not knowable or thinkable in this version of history. The author presents food such as seaweed and kebabs as though they did not exist as food for anyone, anywhere until they were “discovered” and written into Eurocentric history. Pasta, curry, pizza, rice, bananas, oranges, sugar, and pineapple all denote imported goods within an expanding global market, thus invoking a racialized colonial history that is very much a structuring principle of 1950s North American society, as well as the now dismantled British Empire. The implicit point of view is also classed: not poor enough to eat brown bread but not necessarily wealthy enough to be “posh.”20 When I consider the choice of poem in relation to the                                                  20 When I do an internet search for this “Dinner in the Fifties” poem, I find there is a very similar version titled “Eating in the UK in the Fifties” posted by an author named Yvonne Rossiter (Rossiter, 2013). Not surprisingly, all of these references align with a British imperial writing and reading of Canadian history. The website that houses the poem is called, “Free Time: Our Stories of Leisure Then and Now”. The project is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund in the UK.   166   name of the event, “Remember when…Celebrating the 50’s,” a dominant version of the history of Canada becomes evident.  This 1950s event was inspired by a belief about who has historically been “in” and “of” Canada, and who is “coming” to Canada. White, middle-class people of Western European descent are assumed to have been “here” in the 1950s, and whose traditions—ways of being, cooking, eating, and knowing—are understood to be the building blocks of Canadian culture (Iacovetta, Korinek, & Epp, 2012; Iacovetta, 2006). In sharing their own version of their heritage, these white elders drew upon an idealized and aspirational picture of white North American middle classes retrospectively produced by mass media. Although there were many other ethnic and cultural groups cooking and eating in 1950s Canada in different ways, their presence was erased in the way this event was organized. Indigenous people did not exist, and newcomers were yet to “come” with “new’ traditions. The ability to cultivate and occupy this perspective is shaped by the normativity and privileges of whiteness with roots in colonialism. While these white elders may have faced systemic gendered and classed inequalities, their low-income in retirement was not due to their race. That multiculturalism was seen by these elders as a fun, productive, anti-aging activity cannot be understood without considering their whiteness.  What counts as productive activity is itself racialized (and classed and gendered). White elders at the House only had to think about race when they chose to (McIntosh, 2010). While white elders such as Erica decided to think about race and racism by enrolling in adult education courses or by organizing multicultural activities, racial minority elders such as Susan encountered the impacts of racism on a daily basis. Susan explained that for her, meaningful multicultural activity consisted of anti-racist workshops where discomfort was essential and   167   productive for the purpose of social justice. The multicultural activities that white elders take up were celebratory rather than anti-racist, meaning that they focused on symbolic markers of homogenized cultures, often seemingly frozen in time, rather than exploring the organization of systemic racism (and potentially also the way lifetime racial inequalities cumulate in old age) (Rezai-Rashti, 1995; Rezai-Rashti & McCarthy, 2008). Their celebratory approach is not particularly surprising since they were in their early adulthood when Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced the federal policy of multiculturalism, focusing in particular on the preservation and legitimacy of ethnic traditions, festivals and languages. It became evident through the racialized ways white elders and elders of colour interpreted the multicultural lunches that definitions of productive activity were not neutral, and in fact, could be inadvertently ethnocentric (Ranzijn, 2010). What constitutes a productive social contribution to one person can be perceived as oppressive to another person. At the beginning of the dissertation I introduced Joan, a white women elder from the UK who used the origami cranes from the Japanese-themed Drop-In as part of her dinner table centrepiece. Susan interpreted the Japanese-themed Drop-In in an entirely different way in light of her family’s internment history. For Susan, this event could have been an opportunity to discuss this contextualized history in light of its relevance to everyone involved, herself included. However, the Japanese lunch featured a Japanese circus arts performance, literally turning the event into a circus that Susan could not bring herself to attend.     168   3.5 Conclusion    One of my goals in this chapter is to show how generation location intersects with class, gender and race. I do this by looking at the way the activities of elders at the House are hooked into textually-mediated third age discourses. During our interviews, these elders constructed themselves as aging in a way that was never “old.” They did so by situating themselves as active, capable of overcoming constraints, and constantly in the pursuit of opportunities for stimulation, growth and social contribution. One theoretical and empirical contribution of this chapter is to consider how these elders produced idealized conceptions of aging while negotiating fixed incomes. Some of the social science literature presents the third age as a life phase most accessible to those with substantial financial means. Sociologists Weiss and Bass (2002, p.3), for example, describe the third age by noting that “many in these retirement years have available to them pensions and savings adequate to maintain middle income styles of life….[with the] freedom and resources [to] permit them to enter into any of a very wide range of activities. To an extent remarkable outside the realm of the very rich, they fashion lives to suit themselves.” This account imagines elders who have amassed enough wealth to live as if they have a middle class income. What I find is that elder residents at the House produced narratives of “freedom” but with a restricted set of “resources.” These elders had minimal savings and assets, but instead had access to affordable housing and federal and provincial social support. They “fashion[ed] lives to suit themselves” but not through cruise ship vacations or trips to warmer climates. Instead, they (re)defined who they were, and what mattered to them, through their local interactions and events. One notable way they produced the flexibility and stimulation of the third age without middle class financial means was through “chair travelling”: seeking to learn about “new” and   169   “unfamiliar” people and their symbols and traditions through the pursuit of local events and accessible activities.    “Chair travelling,” however, was gendered and racialized. Although both men and women elders spoke about their interest in interacting with people of different races and ethnicities, it was almost exclusively the women elders who formalized this activity through the Seniors’ Drop-In. The women elders at the House are uniquely positioned to be able to embrace “seniors” programming -- the same programming that men elders often associate with the fourth age -- in ways that align with agentic third age narratives. Furthermore, experiences of white privilege enabled these elders to take up multicultural activities in celebratory rather than anti-racists ways, emphasizing cultural symbols over the racialized inequalities that elders of colour at the House faced regularly. These findings demonstrate that discourses of productivity and the third age are experienced and interpreted differently based on social location, and indicate that the voices of diverse elders should be more closely and carefully considered in third age scholarship. These findings also raise questions about the role of House staff in engaging with elders’ experiences and needs in developing and implementing programs such as the multicultural lunches.  In the next chapter I turn to the standpoint of House staff to consider how they understood the Seniors’ Drop-in Lunch and worked with elder volunteers in a senior-driven programming model.      170   Chapter 4:  Senior-driven programming and the managerial efficiency discourse  Participant-driven programming is a key Neighbourhood House approach. Fundamentally intertwined with the NH place-based mandate, the participant-driven model positions community members and volunteers as knowledgeable individuals with valuable assets to offer. The goal is to develop and deliver programs that are rooted in local community needs articulated by and made accessible to people who live in the area (Sandercock 2009). This emphasis on inclusivity and volunteer contributions is written unto House promotional and policy documents and articulated on the Association of Neigbourhood Houses of BC (ANHBC) website:  [A Neighbourhood House is] a welcoming place where everyone, all ages, nationalities and abilities can attend, participate, belong, lead and learn through programs, services and community building. (ANHBC, 2010) The House reproduced this text as a quote in their Strategic Plan document (The House, 2016). It is notable in its emphasis on the inclusion of people of all ages, as well as the range of contributions people could expect to make. House staff working with seniors described senior-driven programming by emphasizing the knowledge, skills and social connections that old adults both brought to programming and could further obtain through taking on leadership positions within program planning and implementation. They emphasized that this program model had the potential to promote the development of individuals and the community. They often contrasted the NH approach to that of a community-center which they perceive to be more top-down and   171   service-oriented. Staff member Paris, while noting that there are exceptions across centres and programs, explained that the focus and goals of NHs are often different from community centres:  I think their goals are slightly different. They are very focused on health and wellbeing, which is part of … what we do, but it’s more about, in the community centres offering services and fitness programs, and not as much focus on the individual and what they’re bringing…. That’s our main focus, whereas in the community centre I think their main focus is just providing services that people can avail of. Central to Paris’ account is the distinction between providing services and focusing on what unique individuals have to offer as program contributors and leaders.  This difference was articulated in various ways by many staff members. Merie, who felt she was “learning from seniors,” emphasized that the learning going on through program development was two-way in that she actively listened to and attempted to center elders’ voices. Other staff members saw themselves creating avenues for old adults to feel agentic. Clarissa explained, “they want to feel empowered and they, they are, a lot of them. You want to give them opportunities for them to be empowered”. Staff responses often spoke directly to their desire to challenge ageist stereotypes. When I asked Jessica what made her want to work with old adults, she said, “It's a nice thing to feel like you're helping to empower someone who might be considered, you know, being a senior or older aged, just to help them keep their autonomy.” Many of these accounts connected elders’ involvement with House programs to their ability to age successfully in the face of stereotypes regarding dependency and decline. Joanne, who had experience working in a variety of seniors’ support contexts, believed that a “community based”   172   approach rooted in empowerment could create the context for elders to “take care of their own wellness.” She clarified that, “people who are active, and I don’t just mean physically active, socially active and spiritually… age much better.” One of Joanne’s goals was to “give them that self-esteem and you know “you still have something to offer” and “this is what you can do if you feel like you need to get stronger or healthier.”  The senior-driven programming approach offers an interesting infusion of third age ideals in a context not necessarily always associated with the third age. While programs labelled specifically for ‘seniors’ in an institutional context may often be seen as more suitable for the ‘old’ old, at the House they are redefined as appropriate for the ‘young’ old given that elders are expected to exercise creativity and self-expression through their shaping of the programs. Much like elder women at the House explored multicultural activities as a way of engaging in youthful, productive activity, the staff also framed House seniors’ programming in a way that aligned with productive aging. The notion of productive aging was developed within gerontology literature partially as a way to reimagine elders not as a drain on state resources, or “net resource sink” (Hinterlong, 2008, p.112), but as individuals who have the skills and interest to make useful social and economic contributions and the capacity for self-management (Estes, 2001; Morrow-Howell, Hinterlong & Sherraden, 2001). This approach positons old adults as “a growing yet largely ignored resource” (Austin, Des Camp, Flux, McClelland & Sieppert, 2005, p. 401).  House staff demonstrated a commitment to developing programs rooted in the capacities and needs of elders in the catchment area, yet it is also crucial to consider the ways participant-driven programming can be informed by, and perhaps complicit in extending, market-driven ideologies informing productive aging. Within contexts of neoliberal governance, exemplified by   173   the New Public Management, notions of productive aging can be co-opted by population management agendas intended to reduce government spending while maximizing quantifiable, often short-term, deliverables (Griffith & Smith, 2014). Feminist political economists of ageing have long identified the connections between successful and productive aging models and broader initiatives to reduce health care costs, enlist volunteer labour, and individualize the mediation of risks structured by systemic inequality (Estes, 2001).   It is within this context that I consider how staff were both constrained and enabled in their work with seniors at the House. I argue that their implementation of seniors’ programming is constrained by several processes, at both the micro level of everyday interaction as well as the macro level of institutional funding structures. Although staff employed the discourse of senior-driven programming, they were not always able to create opportunities for everyone to contribute and to be meaningfully heard in this process. My fieldnotes record several instances where individuals, whether elder volunteers or elder participants, were cut off, silenced, or dismissed as they attempted to contribute to or provide feedback on the Seniors’ Drop-In Program. These kinds of interactions occurred regularly at the Drop-in, both among participants and between staff and volunteers. While the old women I spoke with overwhelmingly affirmed the importance of the senior-led programming model, some elder women of colour also raised concerns about how this process worked. Despite an institutional commitment to inclusivity, some elders did not feel that they or their ideas were welcomed in House spaces. The default assumption that a program is senior-driven functioned to silence power dynamics regarding how the space was organized and how program-planning interactions were shaped by social inequalities. Staff sought ways to save time   174   and money in the work that they did, a type of work knowledge informed by what I will call the “managerial efficiency discourse.” This orientation to work means that, despite staff members’ desire to make sure all elders’ ideas and needs were welcomed in the program planning process, their limited time and attention was more often focused on issues of efficiency rather than inclusion. Within an institutional context where program funding was insufficient and impermanent, and where many positions were part-time or grant-based, staff struggled to manage the competing demands they faced while allotting sufficient time for meaningful engagement with elder volunteers and their ideas.   I encountered some challenging methodological questions in analyzing my data and writing up the findings for this chapter. A minority of participants, both elders and staff, who identified as people of colour, held views about the implementation of the Seniors’ Drop-In Program at the House that differed significantly from the views of my other participants (most of whom identified as white). They took up and interpreted the senior-driven discourse in distinct ways. Although these views were only presented to me by a small number of participants, I retained them as a central part of my analysis of the data for this chapter. The small number of participants who identified as racial minorities means that I have less data to work with but does not, in itself, discount the validity or weight of these accounts. In fact, that women of colour had different ways of knowing the Drop-In program is evidence of their experience of disjuncture, meaning that their knowing was subordinated by organizational practices (Smith, 1990, p. 11). It is at this point of disjuncture that it is possible to “identify and challenge the prevailing problems in otherwise unquestioned, taken-for granted, prevailing ways of knowing and acting” (Campbell, 2003, p 17-18). Furthermore, the predominance of white, heterosexual, European-  175   descendent elders and staff at the House offers significant information about the environment and was a factor that shaped the daily activities that people engaged in at the House. Some of the racial minorities I spoke with felt that they were the only ones raising certain issues at the House, and that other people were not called upon to acknowledge or encounter these issues due to their social location and normative status in House spaces. By featuring these minority statements in my research, although they do not represent the majority of participant accounts, I aim to inquire into the institutional conditions that led these particular participants to feel silenced, and into the relations of ruling that appeared to govern the House.   My decision to include these minority voices is informed by my reading of scholars who argue that the standpoint of people’s daily experiences and their positioning within intersecting systems of power and oppression shape the type of thinking and seeing they will have access to, and inform how they draw upon discourses within and through particular places (Hartsock, 1983, Hill Collins, 1986; Smith, 1987, 1974). The different accounts of these participants who identified themselves as racial minorities therefore suggest a crucial way that social relations at the House were coordinated. As Smith (2005, p. 158) argues, work knowledge is embedded in sequences of action with other people through the coordination of work and texts: The ontology of institutional ethnography proposes that the differences in perspective and experience of participants be recognized and taken advantage of in mapping processes or organization. Indeed, it is indispensable. The experiences of one informant may include references to other positions or people involved in the same institutional process… It is useful to imagine these as doors that can be opened by interviewing someone on the other side whose perspective and   176   experience complements (and may correct) the work and talk of the first informant. (Smith, 2005, p. 158).  In other words, different accounts are an avenue to exploring how an informant’s work is coordinated with the work of others within institutional processes. I, therefore, take up accounts in relation to one another in an attempt to understand how a given situation is put together.    4.1 “[It’s] not for me to put it on, but to support it being done”  It is well documented that people of varying statuses tend to take up more or less space in conversation and are often perceived and responded to differently by others (for example, see Hochschild, 1979). These inequalities in interaction take on specific implications in the House context where many programs, such as the Seniors’ Drop-in Program, were intended to be senior-driven insofar as elder volunteers were called upon to provide input and leadership. On one of the House walls on the main floor was a passage by Margaret Wheatley (2002, p. 3), an organizational consultant and writer, that read, “Human conversation is the most ancient and easiest way to cultivate the conditions for change, personal change, community and organizational change, planetary change. If we can sit together and talk about what’s important to us, we begin to come alive.”  This passage hung on the wall as a symbol, a constant visual reminder of one of the House’s ideals: listening and developing programs based on and rooted in collaborative dialogue. Exchanging ideas through interaction was built deeply into their community-building model. In many ways this approach has anti-ageist implications in that it positions volunteers of all ages as contributors to conversations about programming needs and interests.    177     Figure 2. Image of a quote on the House wall with a desk with brochures underneath. Photo taken by the author at the House during fieldwork, April 28, 2015. Quote reprinted from Turning to one another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future, by Margaret Wheatley. Copyright 2002 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers.  The quote and the packed desk visible below it also symbolized a tension within how senior-driven programming was done at the House: the ideal versus the daily work required to bring that ideal into being. Unlike the quote, which was the sole focus on an otherwise empty wall, the desk had many texts on and around it: program flyers, program surveys, and documents describing House history and goals. While Margaret Wheatley’s words were prominent for all to see, the documents underneath were not necessarily as celebrated or visible in the everyday operations of the House. The symbolic ideal of a participant-driven environment was both suppressed and spoken within the messiness of everyday activities and coordinating texts within and beyond the House. I started to wonder how certain talk, and certain goals for change, were documented in these texts. How were ideas for a program taken up and written into the monthly House   178   programming pamphlet? If everyone spoke, would everyone’s ideas be heard and integrated into these official texts, and vice-versa? How were these texts put together? Who put them together? I did not have to wait long for an opportunity to learn. My interest in elders was well known to the staff by this point in my fieldwork. Emma, the Seniors’ Drop-in’ Program coordinator (the third coordinator in six months), approached me about being involved with a “Seniors Profiles” project for National Seniors Day. She asked me to write an official text for the House that would be printed for and circulated during National Seniors Day when community members were invited to come to the house to learn about and celebrate seniors’ activities and the senior participants and volunteers. I quickly learned that House staff had particular ideas about what kinds of information I should have elicited from seniors and what I should have included in the write up. I was asked to locate and interview elder volunteers and program participants who were active at the House. My task was to turn each interview into a one-page summary that would be compiled in a short book to be displayed at the House. I noticed a tension among the staff in what the short summaries were supposed to be about. Emma initially told me to ask participants about their lives and their achievements, what they were most proud of, what they wanted people to know about them, what their favourite quote was, their hobbies, family, friends, and so on. A few days later, however, Emma informed me that she had been to a planning meeting for the event where she learned more about the purpose of the book. The staff organizers wanted me to specifically highlight House programs in the written summaries. Instead of the initial questions, Emma then advised me to ask the elders about their involvement with the House, what their favourite thing about the House was, and how the House had had an impact on their lives. The first set of questions was about the elders and their lives, and the second set of   179   questions, which replace the first, was about the House in relation to the elders. I realized that even though I would be sitting and talking with elders about their experiences, the agenda for the discussion and the points that I would take up and insert into the official account were coordinated by the needs of the institution, in this case, to highlight the impact of the institution itself on people’s lives. “Talk[ing] about what’s important to us” in this specific situation was an activity done with particular goals in mind that shape the conversation—what will be asked, what will be heard, and what will be written into an official text.  The program planning meetings I attended similarly had predetermined agendas and goals. The Senior’s Advisory Group (SAG) was often mentioned by staff as an example of senior-driven programming. The SAG met monthly to plan the themes, meals and entertainment for the Seniors’ Drop-In Program. The meetings usually consisted of ten to twelve elder volunteers and the Seniors’ Drop-In program coordinator.  In my observations of these meetings, perspectives that challenged the way the programming was organized were not often meaningfully heard and suggestions for new ideas were not always supported. I began to consider which types of ideas and feedback were more likely to be taken into account and acted on by other elders and staff.  I attended my first Seniors’ Advisory Group (SAG) meeting in February, 2015. Eleven women, including myself, were seated around a circular table. Nine of the women appeared white and two appeared Asian. Most looked to be in their late sixties and seventies, with one woman slightly older. The youngest women at the table were the program coordinator, Emma, who was only a few years older than I and had an accent from the United Kingdom, and myself. The primary purpose of the SAG was to provide feedback and planning input for the weekly   180   Seniors’ Drop-in Program. The day’s meeting took place immediately after the first multicultural meal component of the drop-in celebrating Chinese New Year. The kitchen staff and volunteers prepared wonton soup and no formal entertainment occurred, but the lunch coordinator passed out handouts with images and descriptions of each animal sign from the Chinese Zodiac. During the lunch, I was seated at a table with five older white women who appeared to be in their seventies. After glancing briefly and with some excitement at the handouts, three of these women began to discuss their horoscope zodiac signs. One of the women asked me what my horoscope sign was. Just as I was getting ready to respond that I am a Pisces, but was born in the year of the tiger, I was asked by another volunteer to help clear dishes.   At the SAG meeting, we spent about ten minutes speaking about desirable themes and entertainment options for the upcoming multicultural meals. The discussion felt rushed as the coordinator, Emma, had several agenda items to get through before she had to leave to run her next program. Emma led the discussion by asking the SAG members about what kind of entertainment they would like for the upcoming multicultural meals. An interesting conservation ensued as the members and Emma brainstormed and listed off different ethnic groups they would like to have perform. The theme suggestions—based on ethnicities, nations, and continents—did not appear to be representative of the people in the House or the neighbourhood in particular. Ruth, one of the Asian women, seemed pensive right before she stated that she thought they needed “more multiculturalism” and that that day’s Drop-in was not quite sufficient. Without pausing, Emma, referring to the Chinese New Year lunch, stated, “That’s why we served the Wonton Soup.” Ruth paused and clarified that that wasn’t what she meant. Ruth then stated that the food “[wasn’t] enough”, without continuing the thought. Emma then asked about bringing an   181   African group in to perform. The other Council members responded positively toward that idea. This enthusiasm was followed by some discussion about bringing in an Eastern European group for an event. Ruth’s idea was not picked up by any other members of the SAG and was not revisited during that meeting or any subsequent meetings I attended.   During these moments in the conversation I became aware that I sat amongst an almost exclusively white council, who made choices regarding multicultural entertainment that our brainstorming session seemed to define as anything that was not white or Western European. I was also struck by the interaction between Ruth and Emma. Ruth’s attempts to offer a critique or at least a suggestion for the multicultural meals were not supported, nor was she encouraged to develop and share her ideas with the group. Emma’s suggestion to bring in an African group seemed to limit Ruth’s ability to articulate her thought to the group and have it meaningfully understood and engaged with. While Ruth wanted to pause to discuss how the group thought about and implemented multiculturalism, Emma kept the discussion focused on making decisions within the existing event framework so she could begin planning the next Drop-in. The implications of this exchange for the planning of the multicultural lunch were significant given that Ruth was one of the only old women of colour participating in the council, and she was raising a potential point just an hour or so after the Chinese-themed lunch. Given that the SAG was intended to be senior-driven, with the purpose of centering elders’ voices in planning the Seniors’ Drop-In, it was notable that the ideas of some council members could be easily dislodged or redirected by the coordinator. In this case, a request to reflect on the previous event rather than start organizing the next event went overlooked.     182   I was also present for times when elders silenced each other in the planning process and staff did not intervene. For example, toward the end of one Seniors’ Drop-in, an old white woman volunteer named Stacey expressed concern about how the particular session was going. She explained that she felt overwhelmed by some of the challenges we encountered in serving the food, such