Dr Susan Venn

Research Fellow
MSc, PhD
+44 (0)1483 683053
03 AD 03



Research interests

Research projects


Hitchings, R., Venn, S. and Day, R. (2015) Assumptions about later life travel and their implications: pushing people around? Ageing and Society

Taking four assumptions in turn, this review article considers some of the lenses through which researchers might look at later-life leisure travel and the implications of adopting each of them. First, we consider the ‘active ageing’ agenda and what this means for how leisure travel may be thought about in academia and beyond. Second, we turn to studies underpinned by worries about the appetite for significant consumption thought to typify the ‘baby-boomer’ generation and question whether these studies could inadvertently be promoting the very future they hope to avoid. Third, we explore how research on the benefits of everyday ‘mobility’ in later life may have morphed into a more general belief about the value of travel in older age. Finally, we reflect on how relevant studies of tourism are often underpinned by an argument about the financial rewards that now await those ready to target the older traveller. Our overall contention is that, though for different reasons, all four could be serving to encourage more later-life travel. Whilst for some this prospect is not at all troubling, the spectre of adverse energy demand consequences leads us to explore a more critical view.

Burningham, K. and Venn, S. (2017) Are lifecourse transitions opportunities for moving to more sustainable consumption? Journal of Consumer Culture

The idea that lifecourse transitions might offer ‘moments of change’ in which to encourage more sustainable consumption is popular. However, insights from the sociological literature on lifecourse transitions have rarely been brought to bear on this assumption, and little research explores how everyday consumption may change through such transitions. This article focuses on two distinct lifecourse transitions – becoming a mother and retirement – and through qualitative longitudinal research evaluates the assumption that such periods provide opportunities for movement to more sustainable consumption. Three interviews were conducted with 40 new mothers and 40 retirees in the United Kingdom, exploring change and continuity in aspects of everyday consumption. While our findings confirm that these are times of significant change with potential impacts on the sustainability of everyday consumption, we conclude that to characterise such transitions as ‘moments of change’ fails to adequately capture their lived experience.


Venn, S. and Burningham, K. (2015) Consumption junkies or sustainable consumers: considering the grocery shopping practices of those transitioning to retirement, Ageing and Society

The current generation of older people who are approaching or recently experiencing retirement form part of a unique generational habitus who have experienced a cultural shift into consumerism. These baby boomers are often portrayed as engaging in excessive levels of consumption which are counter to notions of sustainable living and to intergenerational harmony. This paper focuses on an exploration of the mechanisms underpinning the consumption patterns of baby boomers as they retire. We achieve this through an understanding of the everyday practices of grocery shopping which have the potential to give greater clarity to patterns of consumption than the more unusual or ‘extraordinary’ forms of consumption such as global travel. In-depth interviews with 40 older men and women in four locations across England and Scotland were conducted at three points in time across the period of retirement. We suggest that the grocery shopping practices of these older men and women were influenced by two factors: (a) parental values and upbringing leading to the reification of thrift and frugality as virtues, alongside aspirations for self-actualisation such as undertaking global travel, and (b) the influence of household context, and caring roles, on consumption choices. We conclude with some tentative observations concerning the implications of the ways baby boomers consume in terms of increasing calls for people to live in more sustainable ways.

Burningham, K. and Venn, S. (2017) Understanding and practicing sustainable consumption in early motherhood, Journal of Consumer Ethics

This paper explores when environmentally sustainable consumption occurs for new mothers, and how their constructions of sustainable lifestyles align with, or are challenged, by the everyday priorities of family life.

The study involved longitudinal qualitative research with new mothers. Interviews focused on how ordinary consumption shifted or remained stable, with sustainability only being explicitly discussed in the final interview.

Environmentally sustainable modes of consumption were adopted when they were considered to be in synergy with the over-riding project of doing family. Participants constructed environmental sustainability as an ideal at odds with the reality of everyday family life. We suggest there is a need for greater attention to the gender and relational dimensions of environmentally sustainable practice, and for the promotion of holistic discourses of sustainable consumption which align sustainable living with the maintenance of family life.