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The troubles with ‘celebrity’: community formation in senior public housing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 October 2002

CHRISTOPHER A. FAIRCLOTH
Affiliation:
Malcolm Randall Veterans Administration Medical Center, Gainesville, Florida, USA.

Abstract

In the study of ageing, community has increasingly become a topic of interest. Ageing studies are certainly not alone in this, for the same is widely true in the contemporary American social sciences. More and more research, often quite theoretical, suggests that we must raise the sense of community to achieve improvements in the quality of life. In gerontology, over the past decade studies of nursing homes and housing settings have burgeoned. For the most part, however, analyses have focused on the need for community through social integration, while the underlying question, of how community is formed through social interaction, has been neglected. Community, as discussed here, grows out of interaction in a local setting. The interaction is based on a shared or common knowledge of the site's occupants. In essence, community is not so much a site or location per se, but rather the activity of converting a site into a shared collectivity. In this article, the specific mechanisms through which community is formed in a senior, government-supported housing complex are documented. Using data from fieldwork in the neighbourhood, it is argued that, at this site, community is formed through talk about the neighbourhood's commonly recognised troubles. An important component of this ‘troubles talk’ is the celebrity status of two residents. Talk about them is an important component of the elaboration and elucidation of the commonalities that bind the residents together.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2002 Cambridge University Press

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