Exploring the emotional geographies of communication technology use among older adults in contemporary London
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Geographies of ageing literature recognises the emotional qualities of ageing. However, an historical tendency to overly medicalise ageing means research often focuses on the emotions associated with specific events such as the emotions involved in living with health-related conditions, being a carer, or being cared for in different settings. There remains a paucity of research that attends to the everyday, mundane emotions of being old. This research attends to this lacuna by drawing on theoretical frames emerging from post-humanism and emotional geographies. Specifically, this research engages with the spatial organisation of emotions as it pertains to an increasingly significant element of ageing: the role of communication technology in older people’s ability to create and maintain new modes of (techno)sociability. Drawing upon 29 qualitative interviews and 13 cultural probe follow up responses with retired Londoners aged 59 to 89 years, this research examines how technology connects bodies to objects, people to people and (re)connects older adults to place in new and unexpected ways. Among this participant group diverse, highly individualised and complex amalgams of communication technologies were used. Each mode of communication technology was deployed using intricate strategies of selection and implementation, based on varying temporalities and spatialities, enhancing the ability of participants to relate emotionally with others. Technology use in this regard enabled the portability and emotional continuity of social networks, as communication was no longer tied to certain physical spaces. These findings are theoretically significant as emotions are increasingly seen to have a direct impact on the spatial construction of society through shaping human capacities and behaviours, which form the world around us. Work in this domain has been limited with certain emotions and bodies being more readily researched, and affiliated with particular gendered and sexualised bodies, bodily capacities, physical forms and social identities than others. This research is able to offer an understanding not currently present in geographical literatures, and offer new modes of spatial analysis that take into account the pervasive but differentiated use of technology.
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