10.22108/jas.2016.20504

Consumption patterns of the elderly: a qualitative study

Abstract

Introduction All over the world, the population of the elderly is growing and the situation in Iran, in this regard, is not an exception.  The prediction of an “elderly explosion” in the near future is not far-fetched.  This concept will probably stimulate many debates in terms of its dimensions and consequences for the society. In this regard, the concept “dynamic aging” will also be raised. One of the most effective formulations and conceptualization in this regard is the concept of lifestyle. Nevertheless, studies relating to the lifestyles of the elderly in this country are very much limited and usually closely relate only to physical health and quality of life and are also just limited to periodic studies. Identifying elderly lifestyles by qualitative methods and entering into the experiences of the elderly to explore the effects of aging on lifestyle, identifying consumption patterns, the motivations, and reactions of people to lifestyle changes are what this study aims at. Following that, in order to establish the framework of the study, stimulate theoretical sensitivity, extract and interpret the relevant concepts, the utilized approaches are offered as the “rational consumer” and the “craft consumer”. The rational choice approach which indirectly involves rationality in choosing social events enables the consumer to measure his/her emotions. The perspective of craft consumer assumes that people are active in fulfilling their aims towards goods consumption. It means that consumers separate goods from their common uses by recontextualization , giving new meanings or significations to goods. Of course, it’s not claimed that all consumers, even the elderly, are skillful consumers. There are unskillful options for consumption as well and sometimes, due to financial and physical conditions, consumption is imposed on consumers. However, the significance of all functions of skillful consumption doesn’t involve high levels of investment or high expenses. Since the required cultural capital is easily gained through the various forms of the media, increasing skillful consumption among people, including the elderly, is also observed. Nevertheless, part of this increasing skillful consumption relates to the issue of modernization. In this regard, the influence of Giddens is easily seen. He considers modern societies to be “de-traditionalized “and sees one of the most important aspects of consumption as a protection mechanism and continuation of ontological security which refers to protection and continuance of the quality of daily life.     Methods and Materials This study was carried out in 2014 with a qualitative and phenomenological method.  The sampling technique was based on purposive sampling with 21 participants.  The data was gatered through in-depth and semi-structured interviews. The data analysis method was the seven-step Colizzi method. The criteria of participating in this study was being over the age 60 , living in the family, having no fixed mental problems, having no physical problems that can disrupt daily activities, willingness to participate in the study, and being able to talk about experiences.   Conclusion of Results and Discussion Te experiences of the elderly show that they had their especial lived-experiences of this issue. Their experiences constitute a continuum that that extends from consumption based on structural elements (compulsions, environmental and physical conditions) to consumption based on symbols. Findings showed that the elderly, on the one hand, under the effects of structural elements, don’t have the freedom and choices available to other age groups; since their positions, consumption habits and their choices in different areas, such as diet, is dependent on their status  and age. At the other end of the continuum were experiences that show that consumption is mostly a “symbolic act”. Some of the elderly tended to be inclined towards ways through which they can show their especial language, status style, definitions and the fulfillment of their identity. Some of the experiences of the elderly were in the ” intermediate position” or “intermediate experience”. The elderly of this study showed their understanding and awareness of events, expectations and social tendencies by buying and wearing new clothes. On the whole, this study showed that the field of consumption and consumption acts are reflective of cultural changes in the society and analyzing them for exploring those change is an inevitable necessity. Consumption manners of the participants, in this study, showed some trends of cultural changes. As a result, cultural planning for the elderly, like any other planning, requires understanding of their values and inclinations

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