Disruptive Solidarity or Solidarity Disrupted? A Dialogical Narrative Analysis of Economically Vulnerable Older Adults' Efforts to Age in Place with Pets

Public Health Ethics 12 (1):15-29 (2019)
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Over one-third of older adults in many countries have a companion animal, and pets may harbor health-promoting potential. Few studies have considered pet-ownership in relation to economic vulnerability, and pet-ownership has not been often considered within policy efforts to promote ageing-in-place. We conducted a mixed methods case study to understand perspectives of both community agencies that support ageing-in-place and older adults themselves. A shortage of affordable, appropriate pet-friendly housing emerged as a challenge, even when framed as a legitimate choice and preference for many older adults. In this manuscript, we share the trajectories of three economically vulnerable older adults whose affordable housing needs became entangled with commitments to pets. Guided by dialogical narrative methodology, we offer each narrative as a short vignette to illustrate the extent to which older adults will practice ‘more-than-human solidarity’ for a pet, even when their own well-being is compromised as a result; and highlight incongruence between the underlying moral values that shape solidaristic practices of individuals versus solidaristic arrangements that shape affordable housing opportunities. We suggest that housing rules and legislation that disrupt, rather than confirm, more-than-human solidarity may render older adults susceptible to, rather than protected from, deteriorating physical, mental and social well-being. We propose that collective solidaristic practices must reflect and subsume the moral complexity of solidarity practiced by individuals, to enable fair and equitable ageing-in-place.



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