Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2022
When I was young, I was a farmer in Ikwiriri. Every day I walked long distances to my fields in the river valley. Then I moved and settled in Dar es Salaam. But as I grew older, I slowly started being unable to walk long distances with my goods in my hands. I decided to close my business; I came back to the village, and then completely moved to the fields for the entire agricultural season. I could no longer manage to walk every day [from the village to the farm and back again]. This situation was made worse by illness; I developed a painful busha. My scrotum swelled up and grew bigger and bigger. Finally I could not walk anymore, and stopped walking and working entirely. See, this is ageing! It started slowly! Slowly! Until it pinned me down!
The story of the 78-year-old Mzee Hafith vividly illustrates that place becomes increasingly important in older age. As a young man, he first worked as a farmer, moving easily between the village and the floodplains where he cultivated rice and other food crops. He then migrated to the city and became a petty trader, walking the streets and peddling his merchandise. As he grew older and weaker, carrying weights and walking far became increasingly troublesome. He returned to the village and his rice fields, until an advanced stage of his illness made him stop walking and working. Ageing gradually ‘pinned him down’.
This chapter asks what happens when older people like Mzee Hafith become restricted in their movements. What spaces of care become significant, or even open up, while others close down? Grounded in empirical research, it suggests a theoretically informed approach paying particular attention to the spatial3 dimensions of older people's ageing and care experiences.
Because the experience of ageing is intricately linked with the body, I use an embodiment perspective as a starting point for my inquiry. In the phenomenological perspective, an ill person apprehends the body both a) ‘as lived body (the body experienced at the pre-reflective level in a non-objective way)’, and b) ‘as objective or physiological body (the body apprehended at the reflective level as a material objective entity among other entities within the world)’ (Toombs, 1993, 51).