Exigencies and choices: Narratives of continuities, transitions and turning points on the housing path in older people's life courses

Paula Vasara, Doctoral student

Certain time and place presents options as well as constraints on the paths experienced available and desirable over the life course. Housing, and particularly the actual place where an individual resides, may be perceived as one of the perimeters that frame the possibilities and choices in life. In modern societies, choosing and changing the place of residency are considered natural and acceptable occurrences over the life course, but later life creates an exception.

A mere increase in chronological age appears to indicate only unwelcomed changes. The pursuit of continuity and stability are commonly endorsed, and even the current housing and care policies are harnessed to this purpose, i.e. supporting growing old at own homes. But herein lies the problematics; nothing neither stays the same nor is experienced the same way between individuals. Both the desirability as well as the occurrence of change or continuity are individually interpreted experiences dependent on various factors beyond mere age.

The current policies and practices appear to leave little room for individual consideration. Thus, narrative analysis is employed in order to explore the experiences of exigencies and choices on the housing path in later life. In addition, the multiple ways continuities, transitions and turning points are constructed in the life course are examined. Instead of dwelling in the trenches of the staying–moving-duel, the focus of attention is on the pivotal role of time in understanding reasoning concerning housing preferences. The ongoing negotiations and interpretations related to the housing decisions are in the center of attention; highlighting the variety of possible ways of being able to accommodate suitability of various kinds of decisions under different times, places and circumstances over the life course.

The data consists of narrative interviews gathered in the research projects Moving in old age: Transitions in housing and care (MOVAGE, funded by the Academy of Finland 2011–2015) and Working carers and caring workers: Making paid employment and care responsibilities compatible? (WOCAWO, funded by the Academy of Finland 2008–2011).