How Age Matters: The Emotional Work of Younger and Older People Living with Defibrillators

Part of the Health, Technology and Society book series (HTE)


This chapter addresses the emotional distress that may emerge when bodies are implanted with heart-rhythm devices. To avoid the pitfall of framing emotional distress as an inherent characteristic of individuals, I suggest it is important to take into account the different reasons why people receive defibrillators in the first place, particularly age-related differences. Whereas many older people are more likely to receive an ICD for the treatment of heart failure or to prevent sudden cardiac arrest, young people may receive these implants because of genetic predispositions of life-threatening heart-rhythm disturbances. These age- and disease-related differences are important to take into account because the appropriation of technologically transformed bodies may involve very different kinds of sensory experiences. Conceptualizing emotional distress as a technology- and disease-mediated process rather than an individual trait, this chapter explores the emotional work younger and older people invest in reducing the anxieties co-produced by their devices and illnesses. The chapter shows important age-related differences in the ways in which wired heart cyborgs try to become emotionally resilient cyborgs, including differences in the emotional work invested in coping with their anxieties and the social resources available for building emotional resilience.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science, Technology and Policy StudiesUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

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