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Experiencing older age, gender, and the body: Challenging and reinforcing ‘positive ageing’ discourses


Cook, P, Experiencing older age, gender, and the body: Challenging and reinforcing positive ageing' discourses, TASA Conference 2018: Precarity, Rights and Resistance: Book of Abstracts, 19-22 November 2018, Deakin University, pp. 58-59. (2018) [Conference Extract]

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The discourses of ‘positive ageing’, ‘successful ageing’, ‘productive ageing’ and ‘ageing well’, assert an expectation that older people will exercise self-responsibility in maintaining (or improving) their health, independence, productivity, and functionality (Asquith 2009). Such constructions of ageing challenge traditional constructions of ageing, where older age was associated with decline and social withdrawal. While this appears to challenge negative attitudes towards ageing, positive ageing is based on a dualistic structure that serves to marginalise and stigmatise ageing that is not ‘positive’ and reproduces ageism by privileging youthfulness. Importantly, ‘positive ageing’ discourses are also intimately connected to the body, as witnessed through the association of a youthful appearance with beauty, personal wellbeing, and health within consumer culture (Featherstone 1991). Drawing on empirical research, I explore the extent to which older adult’s narrations of their body replicate or challenge positive ageing discourses. This reveals that while older women hold concerns for their appearance, older men mostly focus on their physical performance. As such, gendered ideas about the body, as well as their understandings of ‘successful ageing’, influence how older adults experience and talk about their ‘ageing body’.

Item Details

Item Type:Conference Extract
Keywords:ageing, older age, identity, third age, phenomenology, narrative analysis, photography, visual methods, active ageing, successful ageing, positive ageing, ageing and wellbeing
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Social theory
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Cook, P (Dr Peta Cook)
ID Code:129526
Year Published:2018
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2018-12-04
Last Modified:2018-12-06

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