Intergenerational care in corona times: Practices of care in Swedish families during the pandemic
Keywords:care, defamiliarization, distance, generations, narratives, relationality, Sweden
Objective: This paper analyses intergenerational relationships in Sweden during the corona pandemic, with a special focus on practices of care. The research question is: How is care between generations – between grandparents, adult children and grandchildren – done during pandemic conditions?
Background: In Sweden, where an extensive welfare state provides affordable child- and eldercare, the corona strategy of generational separation has still affected family practices of care between generations. In this article we analyse narratives of intergenerational care, taking our point of departure in theories of personal life (Smart 2007), relationality (Mason 2004), and care as sentient activity (Mason 1996).
Method: The paper draws on a qualitative interview study with grandparents (n=30), adult children (n=12) and grandchildren (n=12), with data collection taking place shortly before and during the coronavirus pandemic.
Results: The study detects the reciprocal and complex ways in which care between generations takes place. When people relate their experiences, strategies for new ways of doing care are at the centre, involving creative ways of negotiating distance and risk, all marked by both worry and relief.
Conclusion: The pandemic condition becomes a "filter" affecting and leading to a reformulation of practices of care, from taken-for-granted co-presence narratives, into narratives of relational participation resulting in an overall heightened awareness of the importance and difficulties of intergenerational care practices. The study concludes that a strong welfare state does not translate into complete autonomy or independence; rather, people continue to live "linked lives".