The lobby as an arena in the confrontation between acceptance and denial of old age

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In two anthropological studies on old-age institutions, the lobby is found to be an arena in which one may examine the styles that seniors use to cope with the end of life. The lobby seemingly symbolizes the socioexistential situation of today's elderly and gives us a credible view of two separate types of institutions: sheltered housing and the old-age home. The article examines three levels of context: the static "set" in the lobby, the traffic of tenants and others through it, and the extent of freedom in its access. The article concludes that each institutional context "promotes" a different style of coping. Sheltered-housing tenants cultivate a middle-aged identity in which they deny the fact that they are old; tenants of the old-age home accept the manifestations of old-age and conduct an overt discourse with death. The reality of life in an institution as one that forces people to cope with question of identity in old age creates an appropriate background for discussion of the costs and utilities of each style of coping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-271
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2000


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