Urban and suburban geographies of ageing

Call for papers for two papers sessions at the RGS/IBG Conference, sponsored by the Urban Geography Research Group and the Geography of Health Research Group.


  • Bettina van Hoven (Cultural Geography Department; Faculty of Spatial Sciences; University of Groningen; The Netherlands)
  • Debbie Lager (Cultural Geography Department; Faculty of Spatial Sciences; University of Groningen; The Netherlands)
  • Chiara Negrini (School of Geography, Geology and the Environment; Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing; Kingston University; Kingston upon Thames)
  • Tim Schwanen (School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford)

We seek to organise two sessions to explore the relationships of older people and ageing with place, with a particular focus on urban and suburban environments. Up till now, research in the field of ageing and place has been dominated by social and environmental gerontologists. Recently, Schwanen et al. (2012) advocated a more ‘sustained engagement’ with ageing from geographers in order to draw attention to the different spatial configurations of old age and the socio-spatial inequalities in later life. These socio-spatial inequalities stem from a complex interplay of the social and material environment and the biological and psychological aspects of the ageing body (see e.g. Ziegler, 2012). Research on ageing in urban environments has highlighted the exclusionary processes to which older adults can be subjected, such as the obstacles for everyday mobility and the challenges of everyday life in deprived urban neighbourhoods (see e.g. Smith, 2009; Buffel, 2013). However, it has also been acknowledged that older people can make active and important contributions to their community and can make their (urban) neighbourhood and home into a place that evokes positive experiences and attachments.

Arguably, however, the vast majority of older people in the near future will age-in-place in suburban areas rather than live in densely populated urban centres. Whilst historically not developed for older people, suburban areas are now being (re)designed and (re)organised to meet the material and social needs of their older residents (e.g., through the implementation of integrated service areas – ISAs). Given the policy relevance of this trend, further research is needed with regard to how ageing-in-place in suburban neighbourhoods is experienced and what the socio-spatial implications of these environments are for its older population.

We encourage papers that investigate the multiple relationships between ageing and the urban and suburban environment, with particular attention to:

  • Intersections of age with gender, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and other forms of social identification and exclusionary processes related to these intersections;
  • Theoretical advancement within the field of ‘geographies of ageing’;
  • Participatory methodologies and ethical considerations relating to this type of research;
  • Contributions of older people to their local community;
  • Meanings, experiences and emotions related to ageing-in-place; and
  • Planning processes that make cities and suburbs more age-friendly and the role of older people herein.

Abstracts (max. 200 words) should be submitted by 10th February 2014 to Chiara Negrini (c.negrini@kingston.ac.uk) and Debbie Lager (d.r.lager@rug.nl).

Spatialities of Ageing

The last weeks have been very busy, preventing me from writing new posts. However, last week a themed issue of Geoforum that I co-edited was published on the geographies of ageing. It contains an article about independent mobility in later life that I wrote about previously, but here I want to draw attention to the introductory piece in which we — Irene Hardill, Susan Lucas and myself — argue that (a) geographers should pay more attention to ageing and old age, and (b) the body and (spatio)temporality in conjunction with ageing should be theorised more explicitly. We argue that (geographical) scholarship on old age has generally found it difficult to strike  the right balance between the social/cultural and biological/physiological of embodiment in later life and to consider the spatiotemporality of ageing in all its facets. Drawing quite strongly on the writings of Deleuze, we suggest that his understanding of the body could usefully inform geographical scholarship on old age and that ageing and space are best thought of as  ‘entwined becomings’ — processes that evolve in close reciprocity with each other and that result in different dynamics in the experience and meaning of old age in different places. Sounds abstract? In the article we illustrate thes epoints with more concrete examples, drawing among others on the papers included in the themed issue