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When walking becomes wandering: representing the fear of the fourth age

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Katie Brittain, Professor Cathrine Degnen, Dr Grant Gibson, Dr Claire Dickinson, Professor Dame Louise Robinson



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Dementia is linked to behavioural changes that are perceived as challenging to care practices. One such behavioural change is ‘wandering’, something that is often deeply feared by carers and by people with dementia themselves. Understanding how behavioural changes like wandering are experienced as problematic is critically important in current discussions about the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia. In this article we draw on our secondary analysis of qualitative interviews and focus groups with carers of people with dementia to critically question ‘when does walking become wandering’? Drawing on theoretical perspectives from anthropology, sociology and human geography to explore experiences of carers and of people with dementia, we argue that a conceptual shift occurs in how pedestrian activity, usually represented as something purposeful, meaningful and healthy (walking) is seen as something threatening that needs managing (wandering). We demonstrate how this shift is connected to cultural assumptions about the mind-body relationship in both walking and in dementia. We further argue that the narratives of carers about wandering challenge the notion of ‘aimless’ walking in the fourth age. This is because, as these narratives show, there are often pronounced links to specific areas and meaningful places where people with dementia walk to.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brittain K, Degnen C, Gibson G, Dickinson C, Robinson AL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sociology of Health and Illness

Year: 2017

Volume: 39

Issue: 2

Pages: 270-284

Print publication date: 01/02/2017

Online publication date: 08/02/2017

Acceptance date: 18/07/2016

Date deposited: 22/09/2016

ISSN (print): 0141-9889

ISSN (electronic): 1467-9566

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.12505


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