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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Silence or Voice? Agency Freedom among Elderly Women Living in Extended Families in Urban India

Morell, Ildiko Asztalos; De, Santa; Mahadalkar, Pravina; Johansson, Carl; Gustafsson, Lena-Karin


The preferential form of living for the elderly in India is within the extended family. India is undergoing rapid economic development, an increase in mobility, and changes in gender norms due to an increase in women's labour force participation, which places challenges on traditional intergenerational relationships. Ageing and the well-being of the elderly is a rising concern, especially considering that their proportion of the population is expected to grow rapidly in coming decades. There is a lack of universal state provision for the elderly's basic needs, which is especially profound for elderly women, since most do not have an independent income. This leaves the elderly dependent upon the benevolence of their adult children's families or other relatives. This paper explores, with help of narrative analysis and critical contributions from capability theory, elderly women's agency freedoms and how this can be contextualised with their varying capability sets. With help of Spivak's notion of the silent subaltern, the paper anchors elderly women's abilities to voice to their agency freedom. The master narrative of the silent supportive wife and side-lined mother-in-law as well as three counter-narratives explore alternative agencies taken by elderly women.


ageing; India; women; narrative; subaltern; Hindu; capability; agency freedom; elderly; family care; care regime

Published in

International journal of environmental research and public health
2020, Volume: 17, number: 23, article number: 8779Publisher: MDPI

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG3 Good health and well-being
    SDG5 Gender equality
    SDG10 Reduced inequalities

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy

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