DOI: 10.1111/tran.12635 ISSN:

Social infrastructures and older adults' webs of care: COVID‐19 as spatial breach

Elaine Lynn‐Ee Ho, Siyao Gao, Samantha S. F. Lim
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geography, Planning and Development


This paper argues that the spatial restrictions and social distancing measures which older adults experienced during COVID‐19 can be interpreted as a spatial breach in their webs of care, impacting their ability to connect socially with others through formal and informal social infrastructures. Drawing on a qualitative study of 50 older adults in Singapore (which is part of a wider mixed‐methods project consisting of 1199 participants), the paper shows how spatial breaches manifest as tension points in the older adults' webs of care. The paper highlights the paradoxical and ageist impacts of vulnerability tropes that emphasise the alleged universal vulnerability of older adults to the coronavirus. It provides further insights on why some tension points in the older adults' webs of care become resolved through adjustments while others remain unresolved. This analysis furthers our understanding of how older adults cope with the social disconnection that may happen during spatial breaches, especially when it is due to the choices of others to withdraw socially. Conceptually, the paper demonstrates how care assemblages and social infrastructures work in tandem to modulate the older adults' webs of care dynamically. The paper situates social infrastructures as key resource components in the webs of care of older adults, functioning as formal or informal platforms through which they access material, financial or emotional resources. Importantly, the paper shows how particular social infrastructures may become prominent or recede in one's webs of care as the person's care assemblages dynamically adjust to personal circumstances and relationships. In doing so, the paper bridges hitherto distinct literatures on how social infrastructures and assemblages are used to understand social life.

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