Material memoirs on the journey of life
: an exploration of the self in later life through personal possessions

  • Ángel Leira Pernas

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research aims to explore the lived experience of ageing from the point of view of the research participants. Drawing on Lively’s (2014) memoir and on the Wellcome funded pilot research called The Lively Project conducted by the Ark Ageing Programme in 2016, this research has adopted a qualitative methodology based on grounded theory research methods, and has used people’s personal possessions to collect and analyse data. Thirty-three object-led interviews were conducted in North-ern Ireland with people aged 70 or more, in which participants were asked to bring six personal possessions that said something of who they are to the interview.

The main topics and themes analysed in this dissertation emerged from the participants’ narratives, and objects assisted in the process of data collection by eliciting rich life stories and redistributing the power relationships between participants and the researcher. This dissertation examines the lived experience of ageing through three emerging topics and uses time as a framework through which the analysis is conducted. First, participants’ use of symbolic objects to shape their identities in relation to their past will be examined. Second, it will be shown how participants use functional objects to perform their identities in the present. Finally, the future time perspective of participants and its impact in their experience of ageing will be explored. Through these three topics, an interpretation of the lived experience of ageing will be carried out by describing participants’ internal and external connections, and their relationship with the three dimensions of time (past, present and future). The thesis makes a contribution to humanistic gerontology, which aims to discover the meaning of living a long life.
Date of AwardJul 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorGemma Carney (Supervisor) & Leonie Hannan (Supervisor)


  • Ageing
  • material culture
  • possessions
  • gerontology
  • time
  • self
  • self-concept
  • identity

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