Who Are You Calling Old? Negotiating Old Age Identity in the Elderly Consumption Ensemble Michelle Barnhart Àú Lisa Penaloza

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Who Are You Calling Old? Negotiating Old Age Identity in the Elderly Consumption Ensemble MICHELLE BARNHART ˜ LISA PENALOZA As the elderly population increases, more family, friends, and paid service providers assist them with consumption activities in a group that the authors conceptualize as the elderly consumption ensemble (ECE). Interviews with members of eight ECEs demonstrate consumption in advanced age as a group phenomenon rather than an individual one, provide an account of how the practices and discourses of the ECE’s division of consumption serve as a means of knowing someone is old and positioning him/her as an old subject, and detail strategies through which older consumers negotiate their age identity when it conflicts with…show more content…
Since 1994, the number of American adults over 50 who are providing care to their parents has tripled and now exceeds 10 million (National Institute on Aging 2008). At the same time, paid eldercare has become big business. Total annual revenues have been estimated at $264 billion (Freedonia Group 2008), of which 54% went to in-home care services and assisted living in 2006 (Reuters 2008). While much in-home care is medical care, nonmedical assistance is also common. In 2000, over 378,000 Americans over age 75 were receiving paid, in-home assistance with daily activities such as shopping, transportation, and grooming that fall outside of the category of medical care (National Center for Health Statistics 2004). Some older adults hire paid care providers because they have no family or friends available to provide assistance, but most paid caregivers join an existing group of family members or friends who are already helping the older person. The composition of this group and the types of assistance members provide has been shown to change over time as the older person’s needs and members’ circumstances change (Peek and Zsembik 1997; Waldrop 2006). The group of people that helps an older person to consume has yet to be considered by marketing scholars. Previous studies of group consumption have focused on the nuclear family (Davis 1976; Palan and

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