Week 1 – Ageing Playfully


27 October (Wed) 5 pm CET/ 4 pm BST (60min) on Zoom

The first week of the AGENET conference featured a keynote lecture and participatory workshop about play and leisure in later life. Both events were delivered by Dr Carrie Ryan.

Conference Keynote by Dr Carrie Ryan (University College London) Ageing Playfully: Notes on an Anthropology of Play and Games in Old Age

This talk calls for renewed anthropological attention to the social importance of play and games in old age. Though many older adults spend their retirement playing games, few studies emphasize the centrality of these activities in later life. This oversight is cultural: in the West, games and play are perceived as trivial and childish engagements and therefore unworthy topics for ‘serious’ ageing research. However, games and play in old age have powerful social, political, and economic effects; for example, they cultivate meaning making and community building; are increasingly instrumentalised for biopolitical ends through the gamification of health; and are forms of entertainment that make up a significant part of the leisure economy. A research focus on games and play in old age is not frivolous, then, but necessary for a holistic and critical inquiry into the contemporary social lives of older adults. In acknowledging the prevalence of playful ageing, this talk suggests that anthropology will not only more faithfully attend to older adult lives as they are lived, but, in doing so, will also powerfully extend its challenge of ageism by showcasing how older adults remain creative, dynamic, and lively as they age.    

Workshop by Dr Carrie Ryan (University College London) Play as Frame: Reflecting on Fieldwork through the Lens of Play  

29 October (Fri) 3pm CET/ 2 pm BST (90 min) on Zoom

This workshop invited attendees to think about the place of play in their fieldwork. This workshop began with a quick overview of past theorizations of play. Attendees were then asked to discuss, in small groups, how their fieldwork experiences with older adults either reflect, complicate, or advance past theorizations of play. The workshop ended with a group discussion about the new directions play opens for ageing research as well as the possibility for future collaborations.


Dr Carrie Ryan is an anthropologist interested in ageing, care, and play. Her research interests are inspired by her experience working as an Activities Coordinator in a nursing home, a senior centre, and a continuing care retirement community (where she did her doctoral fieldwork). Currently, she is a Lecturer in Biosocial Medical Anthropology at University College London and leads on the research project there called ‘Ageing Playfully: Play an