"Course it's not like being at home": Aging in Place at Shady Acres, a Residential Care Facilty

Pamela Herd, Colby College


This paper explores a residential care facility in the State of Maine that is home to 16 elderly women. The study is based on original field research, involving participant observation and interviews. These were the appropriate research methods as I wanted to hear the women's own voices, not just others' interpretations of them. I used grounded theory as the method of data analysis, thus simultaneously doing field research, writing, and systematic analysis throughout the entire course of the research process. In this paper, I explore the tensions and contradiction of ''home'' in relationship to institution for the women who live at Shady Acres, particularly in light of various broader social issues, such as the biomedicalization of aging and, more directly, policy changes at the State level. The structural changes which have taken place outside of the Home are leading to changes within it. These especially involve the shift to a medical model of care and the widening view that the women residents are patients. This view, in turn, is prompting greater dependence and loss of personal autonomy for the 16 women.