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