It was all planned … now what? Claiming agency in later life in reforming China

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2017-11

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<jats:title>ABSTRACT</jats:title><jats:p>This study explores the social construction of agency and wellbeing among 20 Chinese urban retirees aged between 50 and 82 years old (averaging 67), with a special focus on the impact of earlier life experiences in shaping later-life pathways. Today's retirees in urban China have experienced the communist collectivist ideology during the Mao era as well as the changes to everyday life brought about by the economic transformation from centrally planned socialism to a market-orientated economy. Thereby, life in retirement for Chinese elders becomes more than just an issue of dealing with increases in discretionary time after exit from full-time work, but also one of making sense of their earlier life experiences in the midst of dramatic social changes. A grounded theory approach with semi-structured, in-depth, face-to-face interviews was used for data collection and analysis. Three interrelated themes emerged: (a) reminiscence as a mechanism of meaning-making, (b) discovery and exercise of agency in later life in contrast to a rigidly structured earlier life, and (c) varying pathways to constructing the life-stage of retirement. The findings have refuted gerontological literature and public discourse that often portray Chinese elders as passive care recipients or helpless dependants. Further, the present study has practical implications for developing policies, designing programmes and providing services to improve the quality of life for today's older Chinese people.</jats:p>

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10.1017/s0144686x16000830

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LIANG, JIAYIN, and BAOZHEN LUO (2017). It was all planned … now what? Claiming agency in later life in reforming China. Ageing and Society, 37(10). pp. 2074–2102. 10.1017/s0144686x16000830 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/28546.

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Scholars@Duke

Luo - Hermanson

Baozhen Maggie Luo - Hermanson

Professor of Global Health at Duke Kunshan University

Dr. Luo-Hermanson's current research examines population aging and long-term care experiences, practices, and policies in China. She is spearheading the NACI, which stands for the N Aging and Care Initiative within the CSCC at DKU (N representing Nest, Nameless, and Population). The vision of NACI is that: For every aging and dying individual in China, a holistic and quality care system.


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