|Title||Aging legibly: policy and practice among non-profit professionals|
In this study I utilize ethnographic research to explore how professionals working within non-profit organizations in the field of aging implement and navigate shifts in old age policy. I consider how these shifts are informed by changes in the political economy as well as the construction of knowledge about older adults through mainstream gerontology and the media. I explore how groups, such as older adults and caregivers, are produced and reproduced through policy, defined both as an exercise of power and the everyday practice of practitioners. This study is based on a combination of methods, including a year of participant observation and semi-structured interviews with members of an elder advocacy organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Participant observation took place primarily in the offices of this organization. I attended meetings and events in other locations in Philadelphia, which usually dealt with other non-profit or government groups. Thirteen interviews with staff members at this organization, as well as with individuals in additional organizations in the field of aging, provided insight into the constraints and opportunities created by federal and state aging policy for those that work “on the ground.” The interviews explored the goals of these programs, organizational understanding of the target population, and external factors that affect the trajectory of these programs. I argue that, 1) aging is increasingly depoliticized through the concept of “successful aging,” which professionals alternately reproduce and resistï¼› 2) this process facilitates the roll-back of social welfare programs, andï¼› 3) that this “aging system” creates constraints and contradictions for those who work within it, which are rooted in the effort to simplify and define population groups or make them “legible,” in order to utilize government and private resources.
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