As the baby boom generation ages, there are few ethnographies that capture the dynamics of aging. This new book is based on years of participant observation in "the Sands," a beautiful ocean community of well-off individuals and couples seeking the easy life. Yet the community members contend with deep uncertainties about health as they learn to face the realities of death. Identity, sexuality, gender, and conflict play into a sense of "who belongs where," who is counted a friend or stranger in the struggles of old age. Warren shows how the vicissitudes of the aging body center the present and become anchors for the past and future. Expressed in beautiful literary prose, this book moves beyond wealth to explore the realities of aging in poignant new ways that will enliven discussion in courses on Gerontology, Medical Sociology, Inequality, and many others.
"Warren’s autobiographical ethnography unfolds in sparkling Southern California, where a homogeneous community of ‘Middle Class Millionaires’ live the dream of most Americans to Age in Place with relative financial and health security. For the 60 to 90 year olds, the local watering hole, the Yacht Club, becomes a site of sociability and competition, a hub of interactive races, games, and parties, walks, and conversation. Embracing the longevity-dividend of cumulative advantage softens the sting of age and ageism as life-course thresholds pass. Warren’s insightful work confirms the well-documented benefits of positive social support. It takes a village to age well in America." —Carroll L. Estes, Professor Emerita, University of California, San Francisco, USA
"The Lotos-Eaters offers a fascinating, insightful first-person ethnography of a retirement community inhabited predominantly by ‘new money,’ upper-income people 60 and older. After a sensitive account of the everyday life and daily rounds of residents of the broader Sands marina community, Warren focuses on the subtleties of social interaction, self-presentation, and identity work specifically among those who form an active and influential community in and through the local Yacht Club. Here the ethnography highlights a compelling, ironic contrast: On the one hand, upbeat sociability tied to boating, parties, drinking, humorous sex talk and pressures to retain slender, youthful bodies; on the other, the necessity of coming to terms with the inevitable processes of aging—illness, disability, mental and physical deterioration, and death. An engaged, personal and detailed qualitative study of a unique and intriguing community! " —Robert M. Emerson,Professor Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
"The Lotos-Eaters is quite a masterfully done ethnography. It draws on key sociological concepts and a 'sociology of everyday life' perspective to illuminate the experiences of an aging population that has created its own unique community. Warren’s work places their experiences—their activities, norms, and interactions—in a framework that is illuminating, but there is a lightness in the analysis that fosters discussion and thought, rather than offering definite answers. It’s a great example of how to do an ethnography based on participant observation." —Shirley A. Hill, Professor of Sociology, University of Kansas, USA
Table of Contents
Preface: "The Lotos Eaters"
Introduction: Island in the Sun
PART 1: THE SANDS
Chapter 1: Street Life/Private Spaces
Chapter 2: The Coconut Telegraph
PART 11: THE YACHT CLUB
Chapter 3: Sociability/Affiliation/Competition
Chapter 4: Body/Sex/Gender
PART 111: AGING IN PLACE
Chapter 5: Generations/Autobiographies
Chapter 6: Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night