Downsizing: Confronting Our Possessions in Later Life

Downsizing: Confronting Our Possessions in Later Life

by David Ekerdt


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As life unfolds, things tend to accumulate. When older adults undergo health, residential, and marital changes, they will face a reckoning with their lifelong store of possessions—special, ordinary, and forgotten. Such a predicament now confronts tens of millions of Americans as the Baby Boom cohort passes into retirement and beyond. Despite what a thriving industry of clutter manuals tells us, for most older adults, downsizing is no simple task.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with recent movers in over a hundred diverse U.S. households, David Ekerdt analyzes the downsizing process and what it says about the meaning and management of possessions. He details how households approach and accomplish downsizing, exploring the decision-making process and the effectiveness of different strategies. From an expert gerontological perspective, he considers the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social tasks that the process entails and the role of factors such as gender and class on the divestment of things. Ekerdt finds that despite the fatigue and emotional challenges people encounter, afterward they report satisfaction in having completed a downsizing and feel empowerment on the other side of the task. Offering an empathetic and practical look at one of life’s major transitions, Downsizing brings forward the voices of elders so that older adults, their families and friends, and practitioners working with older clients can understand and benefit from their experience.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231189804
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 06/16/2020
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

David Ekerdt is professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of Kansas. He is the editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of Aging (2002) and a coeditor of Consumption and Generational Change: The Rise of Consumer Lifestyles (2009), among other publications. In 2018, he served as president of the Gerontological Society of America.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Not Forever
1. A Convoy of Possessions Across the Life Course
2. With Aging, How Large a Convoy?
3. Moving Calls the Question
4. Contours of Household Disbandment
5. Gifts to Others
6. Selling Possessions
7. Donations and Discards
8. Emotion and Evaluation
9. Advice

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