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DownsizingDownsizing

Confronting Our Possessions in Later Life

David Ekerdt

Narrated by Peter Lerman

Available from Audible


Book published by Columbia University Press


As life unfolds, things tend to accumulate. When older adults undergo health, residential, and marital changes, they will face a reckoning with their lifelong store of possessions—special, ordinary, and forgotten. Such a predicament now confronts tens of millions of Americans as the Baby Boom cohort passes into retirement and beyond. Despite what a thriving industry of clutter manuals tells us, for most older adults, downsizing is no simple task.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with recent movers in over a hundred diverse U.S. households, David Ekerdt analyzes the downsizing process and what it says about the meaning and management of possessions. He details how households approach and accomplish downsizing, exploring the decision-making process and the effectiveness of different strategies. From an expert gerontological perspective, he considers the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social tasks that the process entails and the role of factors such as gender and class on the divestment of things. Ekerdt finds that despite the fatigue and emotional challenges people encounter, afterward they report satisfaction in having completed a downsizing and feel empowerment on the other side of the task. Offering an empathetic and practical look at one of life’s major transitions,Downsizing brings forward the voices of elders so that older adults, their families and friends, and practitioners working with older clients can understand and benefit from their experience.

David Ekerdt is professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of Kansas. He is the editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of Aging(2002) and a coeditor of Consumption and Generational Change: The Rise of Consumer Lifestyles (2009), among other publications. In 2018, he served as president of the Gerontological Society of America.

REVIEWS:

Downsizing is a must-read; chock-full of wisdom gleaned from interviews with hundreds of older adults who have gifted, donated, or sold their “stuff” before relocating to a smaller home. Ekerdt’s masterful writing poignantly reveals why parting with cherished possessions is such a meaningful life transition.”

—Deborah Carr, author of Golden Years? Social Inequality in Later Life

“With Downsizing, Ekerdt fills a significant gap in our understanding of how elders think about their lifelong accumulation of dwelling possessions and their willingness and strategies to let go of their material worlds. This book should be on the reading lists of all senior care professionals seeking in-depth understanding of what aging in the right place really means to today’s seniors. ”

—Stephen M. Golant, author of Aging in the Right Place

“A fascinating and humane book that speaks to all of us through its exploration of our relationship with material possessions and the paradoxes they present as we grow older. It offers an original and groundbreaking analysis that addresses the materiality of later years in an accessible and beautifully written way.”

—Julia Twigg, University of Kent

Downsizing is a good read that advances the notion that the life course within social gerontology needs to take a material turn. It is hard to imagine a reader who could not relate to this book.”

—Renée Beard, College of the Holy Cross

“With sociological tools and gerontological insight, David Ekerdt tackles the vexing challenge of household downsizing. Through a thoughtful mixed-methods analysis, he explains how we accumulate and deal with our material convoy—the belongings we acquire—as we age. This book will resonate with anyone who has ever wondered why they have so much stuff and what they are going to do with it.”

—Janet Wilmoth, coeditor of Gerontology: Perspectives and Issues





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