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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Middle-class older adults living alone in urban India: Older adults' understandings of ageing alone

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


This study sheds light on the value systems of the middle-class metropolitan older adults living alone, on the ageing self and the person's relationship to the surrounding society based on eight interviews. Ageing research has emphasized the traditional features of elderly care in India including its collectivist values rooted in filial piety and the extended family as well as embracement of disengagement influenced by the Hindu texts on two phases in later life: "hermit" and "renunciate". Increased social and geographical mobility, however, challenges traditional family systems. Using the example of the urban middle-class older adults living alone, this study explored whether living alone constitutes a challenge to the norms that previous research associated with Indian elderly care. Using abductive phenomenographic analysis the study found that the understandings of older adults in the study show great reflexivity concerning key aspects of their lives. Although the life conditions of older adults living alone deviated in many aspects from dominant traditional norms of filial piety and a care regime based on strong intergenerational interdependence, their responses and reflections mirrored assemblages of values deeply rooted in Hindu Vedic philosophy of the Ashramas and perceptions of independence, autonomy and self-reliance associated with Western "productive" aging.


Ageing; middle-class urban India; culture; religion; living alone

Published in

Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging
2024, Volume: 36, number: 1, pages: 86-111
Publisher: Routledge

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

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