’Successful Ageing’ in Practice: Reflections on Health, Activity and Normality in Old Age in Sweden


  • Åsa Alftberg Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Sweden
  • Susanne Lundin Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Sweden




Self-care, health, activity, normality, ageing, practice, lifestyle, old age, health-promoting


This article aims to contribute to the critical examination of the notions of health and activity, and to discuss how these cultural and social constructs have impact on elderly people’s lives. An ethnographic perspective gives fruitful inputs to explore how old people deal with the image of old age as one of decay and decline, while they simultaneously relate to the normative idea of so-called successful ageing. The focus is thus on how elderly people create meaning, and how they manage and make use of the contradictory cultural beliefs that are both understood as normality: old age as a passive period of life involving decline and disease, and activity as an individual responsibility in order to stay healthy. The study sample is created with two different methods, qualitative interviews and two different questionnaires, and the majority of the respondents are 65+ years old. The article demonstrates the intersection between old age and a health-promoting active lifestyle. The notion of activity includes moral values, which shape the beliefs and narratives of being old. This forms part of the concept of self-care management, which in old age is also called successful ageing. The idea that activities are health promoting is the framework in which activities are performed, but significance and meaning are rather created from practice.


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How to Cite

Alftberg, Åsa and Lundin, S. (2012) “’Successful Ageing’ in Practice: Reflections on Health, Activity and Normality in Old Age in Sweden”, Culture Unbound, 4(3), pp. 481–497. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.124481.



Theme: Self-care Translated into Practice