Kinship Network in Late-Life Transitions

Italian socio-sanitary reforms of the 1970's created a legal construct - a "non-self-sufficient aged person" (un anziano non-autosufficiente). In the years that followed, this legal concept would become a social one, made evident by a well-established presence of the word non-autosufficiente in the today's Italian vernacular, as well as by the emergence of various systems of formal and non-formal organizational routines created to respond to the needs of the non-autosufficienti.

Interview using Kinship Network Questionnaire software.

Old age non-self-sufficiency is locally understood as an intrinsic characteristic of the aging body. However, a closer ethnographic look reveals that other factors may also determine if and when he or she starts being perceived and related to as non-autosufficiente.
These are:

  • availability of kin to provide support, aged person’s gender and
  • earlier life course trajectory.


The Kinship Network Questionnaire in this project is used to gather data about changes in social (kin and non-kin) network of the aged individuals at various stages of their physical and cognitive decline. The objective is to understand what processes have determined and are determining the functioning of social network in people’s late-life. The KNQ network data, together with the ethnographic and video material gathered during 18-months of fieldwork in a town in Northeast Italy, contributes to the body of work in Anthropology of Aging and Gerontology, by highlighting the still underexplored issue of structural vulnerability of the elderlies.

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