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Being There: Personal Reflection on a Quest for Understanding the Meaning of Place in Environmental Gerontology

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This autoethnography essay provides a life course perspective on a career-long exploration of the meaning of place and its connection with the early years of Environmental Gerontology. I trace the evolution of a cumulative perspective in three phases, corresponding to sojourns at Clark University, West Virginia University, and the University of Kentucky. At Clark University, in-depth ethnographic study of five older adults in a run-down inner city neighborhood revealed four modalities of environmental experience: action, orientation, feeling, and fantasy. Elaboration on this research at West Virginia University, based on a 3-year study of older adults in a rural Appalachian community, resulted in the theme of insideness, as manifest in physical, social, and autobiographical expressions of affinity with place. At the University of Kentucky, explorations of the notion of being in place and development of a longitudinal life course perspective on this construct further deepened my understanding of the meaning of place. Moving forward it is important to pursue more sophisticated qualitative methodologies, consider diverse populations, incorporate greater consideration of the influence of technological change, and develop more refined grounded theory in the quest for deeper understanding of the meaning of place for older adults.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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