The Life Course and Individual Time Styles of Elderly People in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Stefanie GRAEFE , Department of Sociology, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Jena, Germany
Stephan LESSENICH , Department of Sociology, Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet, Jena, Germany
Anne MÜNCH , Department of Sociology, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Jena, Germany
David EKERDT , Gerontology Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

The life course and individual time styles of elderly people in cross-cultural perspective

Our contribution presents the conceptual framework as well as preliminary findings from a cross-cultural qualitative study, focusing on life course-related time perceptions and time-related agency of older persons in Germany and the United States. Both countries are similarly affected by demographic change, but reveal significant differences regarding life course structures and the institutionalization of old age. Our epistemological interest centers on the interaction between the wealth of everyday time and biographical time poverty in old age. A special focus is set on the relationships between experienced time sovereignty during the life course and the perception of one’s own finitude in old age, i.e. the potential tension between a more autonomous disposition of time in daily routines on the one hand and the necessity of handling the limitations and unavailability of one’s own lifetime on the other. How do both forms of time management interact with each other – and to what extent does the specific individual time style in old age relate to the internal temporal ordering of the life courses elderly people experienced in younger age? Based on problem-centered interviews including large biographical-narrative parts with retirees from various social milieus and different cohorts, we investigate  individual experiences with managing ageing, lifetime and everyday time. A special focus is set on the effects of culture (e.g. regarding the relevance of autonomy values or the societal handling of death and finitude). In doing so, the common self-restriction in ageing research with its still-dominating focus on the cultural “own” is overcome. Simultaneously, we aim at gaining a deeper understanding of the peculiarities of different cultural contexts and their specific impacts on the structure of life courses and individual experiences with time and aging.