Research Topic

Materialities of Age and Ageing

About this Research Topic

In gerontological research the understanding of age and ageing changed in the last decade. Biologic determined explanations no longer prevails in this research field. Instead, ideas of social constructionism are frequently used. These ideas define the state of age and the process of ageing as social constructions, steeping ageing in social and cultural assumptions, ascriptions, and expectations. From a social constructionist perspective, age and ageing are not (just) identified as dependency, deficit, and need for care – as it was foremost accelerated from a biological perspective – but with the life course and thus with individual lifestyles, experiences, attitudes and practices, as well as institutional and economic structures. A prominent social constructionist concept is “doing age.” Similar to “doing gender” the concept of “doing age” assumes age as taking place in the form of a social praxis within everyday life interactions between people and thus in performances, embedded in discourses, through which social hierarchies and ideals proceed.

Despite the paradigm shift that social constructionist concepts enable in gerontological thinking, they reveal their blind spot when it comes to the materiality of ageing and thus to fleshy-sensual experiences, human and non-human ontologies and agencies. Addressing these materialities of ageing brings up its own critique on definitions of ageing bodies and material environments. This framing does not presume that age and ageing are solely products of human-to-human interactions or of formative environments or of discourses. Rather humans, non-humans, and discourses become essential parts of ageing processes. Such a material framing enables new insights into forms of age and ageing and thus offers an opportunity for scholars to engage critically with materialities of age and ageing.

We especially welcome papers that address the question of how age and ageing are co-produced in and through materialities. This question does not only focus on the (ageing) human body in a late phase of life, but also comprises the role that spaces, architecture, furniture, commodity items, pets, and walking frames, among other things, play in ageing processes. Helpful in this regard could be the use of theories of the so-called feminist materialism and/or practice turn as well as approaches in the means of the actor-network-theory.

Papers could explore questions such as:
- Of what relevance are material processes of ageing and how can they be theoretically and methodologically grasped?
- How does the decentralization of the ageing human help to map the complexity of ageing processes?
- What consequence does the suggested material framing of age and ageing have for gerontological research in view of dualisms, ontologies, and agencies?
- How are the hegemonic norms of ‘successful ageing’ (re)negotiated within material processes of ageing?
- How is gender and heteronormativity co-produced in and through materialities of age and ageing?
- How are social inequalities embedded in materialities of age and ageing?

Possible types of manuscripts are reviews, hypothesis, and theoretical and/or methodological articles, as well as perspective articles.


Keywords: age, gerontological research, doing age, materialities, non-human


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

In gerontological research the understanding of age and ageing changed in the last decade. Biologic determined explanations no longer prevails in this research field. Instead, ideas of social constructionism are frequently used. These ideas define the state of age and the process of ageing as social constructions, steeping ageing in social and cultural assumptions, ascriptions, and expectations. From a social constructionist perspective, age and ageing are not (just) identified as dependency, deficit, and need for care – as it was foremost accelerated from a biological perspective – but with the life course and thus with individual lifestyles, experiences, attitudes and practices, as well as institutional and economic structures. A prominent social constructionist concept is “doing age.” Similar to “doing gender” the concept of “doing age” assumes age as taking place in the form of a social praxis within everyday life interactions between people and thus in performances, embedded in discourses, through which social hierarchies and ideals proceed.

Despite the paradigm shift that social constructionist concepts enable in gerontological thinking, they reveal their blind spot when it comes to the materiality of ageing and thus to fleshy-sensual experiences, human and non-human ontologies and agencies. Addressing these materialities of ageing brings up its own critique on definitions of ageing bodies and material environments. This framing does not presume that age and ageing are solely products of human-to-human interactions or of formative environments or of discourses. Rather humans, non-humans, and discourses become essential parts of ageing processes. Such a material framing enables new insights into forms of age and ageing and thus offers an opportunity for scholars to engage critically with materialities of age and ageing.

We especially welcome papers that address the question of how age and ageing are co-produced in and through materialities. This question does not only focus on the (ageing) human body in a late phase of life, but also comprises the role that spaces, architecture, furniture, commodity items, pets, and walking frames, among other things, play in ageing processes. Helpful in this regard could be the use of theories of the so-called feminist materialism and/or practice turn as well as approaches in the means of the actor-network-theory.

Papers could explore questions such as:
- Of what relevance are material processes of ageing and how can they be theoretically and methodologically grasped?
- How does the decentralization of the ageing human help to map the complexity of ageing processes?
- What consequence does the suggested material framing of age and ageing have for gerontological research in view of dualisms, ontologies, and agencies?
- How are the hegemonic norms of ‘successful ageing’ (re)negotiated within material processes of ageing?
- How is gender and heteronormativity co-produced in and through materialities of age and ageing?
- How are social inequalities embedded in materialities of age and ageing?

Possible types of manuscripts are reviews, hypothesis, and theoretical and/or methodological articles, as well as perspective articles.


Keywords: age, gerontological research, doing age, materialities, non-human


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 November 2017 Manuscript
31 December 2017 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 November 2017 Manuscript
31 December 2017 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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