Living alone in old age: Institutionalized discourse and women's knowledge

Paul C. Luken, Suzanne Vaughan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We examine the social organization of "living alone" using both the narratives of elderly women and the academic, professional, and popular cultural textual discourses in which ideological practices are organized about this manner of living and housing. Using institutional ethnography, we examine the organizing practices of living alone through an analysis of the gender and class relations in the institution of housing. We argue that housing regimes are the work of those involved: ordinary people, builders, developers, bankers, psychologists, gerontologists, social workers, foundations, federal employees, demographers, and magazine publishers. The work activities are ordered, successfully or not, by culturally standard idealizations of old age relevant to the ideologies of the various participants in the housing regime. Such practices make women's own knowledge invisible and authorize the housing regime to define and ameliorate the situation of living alone, especially with respect to the maintenance of "independence" under contemporary capitalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-131+ii
JournalSociological Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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