New roads to commensality in widowhood

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

With the loss of a spouse everyday commensal routines can be disrupted or discontinued. This may challenge both the rhythm and organization of daily life, and it can be the first step of many impacting negatively on the widow's, or widower's, health status. Entering new commensal circles could offer a remedy here, helping widow(er)s to forge new social relationships through the sharing of meals. In this paper, we explore how old widows and widowers deal with the disruption of their commensal routines, and how they perceive community-based social meal arrangements for older adults. Qualitative interviews with 31 widow(er)s with different educational backgrounds confirm that many widow(er)s see eating alone as problematic, yet the majority prefer not to attend community-based meals. Reasons given for this often mention the other attendees. Widow(er)s describe the “segment” of people they take to be attending community-based meals as “old” in purely negative and stereotypical ways. We found, however, that when the community-based meal was based on a theme – a “shared third” – it was perceived more positively: the widow(er)s were then able to distance themselves from the negative stereotypes of old age and create a positive self-identity in which they were living up to societal norms of successful, active aging.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104827
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 247113255