Ambiguous personhood: Paradoxes of social belonging in Danish nursing home care

Emma Jelstrup Balkin*, Ingjerd Gåre Kymre, Mette Geil Kollerup, Bente Martinsen, Mette Grønkjær

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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In oldest old age (generally considered to be from 85 years onwards), personhood is often called into question, impacting well-being as a result. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this article examines the well-being of oldest old nursing home residents at the intersections of ageism, fraying personhood and fragile social belonging in Danish nursing home care. In Denmark personhood hinges on both independence and social belonging; or “fællesskab.” We examine how these concepts are practiced in nursing home care. Taking its starting point in the distinction between the “inside world” of the nursing home and the “real world” outside, the article examines how processes of othering occur in nursing home care, imperilling resident personhood and opportunities for social belonging. We consider how oldest old residents navigate social belonging, finding it in turn life-sustaining and vexatious. We argue that tacit ageism permeates the nursing home, to the detriment of resident well-being, despite the best intentions of an aged care system that is structured to specifically maintain personhood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101214
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

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  • Ageism
  • Nursing homes
  • Oldest old
  • Personhood
  • Social belonging
  • Well-being


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