30 April 2016

In different periods of life we have different relations to objects. When we set up our homes we often surround ourselves with furnishings and tech gadgets. But our need for material things decreases over time, according to two LiU researchers in an article in the Journal of Aging Studies.

In the study, 13 Norrköping residents between the ages of 72 and 92 explain how they view their homes and the objects in them. The most striking result was how the respondents were reluctant to making new acquisitions, or even replacing things that had broken. There were already enough things in their homes, they felt.

Reliant on others

Not acquiring new things late in life also means abstaining from new technology. This can be a problem in a society where technology advances rapidly and many of society’s services require that the individual has internet and a smartphone. As a result the elderly become reliant on others when it comes to paying bills or booking the laundry over the internet. And the technology that they do acquire is normally already old, as it is passed on from children and grandchildren.

”Actually it’s not about resistance to technology, it’s a practical approach, where a new acquisition is seen as yet another thing for the family to take care of when it comes time to deal with the estate,” says Lars-Erik Hagberg who co-wrote the article with Åsa Larsson Ranada.

Consideration for their survivors 

Consideration for their survivors is often a reason why the elderly don’t acquire more things for their home. How they build up, care for and clear their home doesn’t just affect themselves, but also their children or grandchildren who have to take care of the estate.

”Here there is some difference between men’s and women’s way of seeing things. Men tend more to leave the sorting to their children, while women want to spare the children this,” says Jan-Erik Hagberg.

The study is part of a larger project financed by the Swedish Research Council.

Article: All the things I have –Handling one’s material room in old age. By Åsa Larsson Ranada and Jan-Erik Hagberg.

Therese Ekstrand Amaya 2015-01-23