Cultures of Ageing: Self, Citizen and the Body / Edition 1

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Overview

For undergraduate courses in sociology and psychology which examine ageing adulthood. This book focuses on the dramatic changes to the nature of post-retirement life experienced by people at the end of the twentieth century. It examines age and ageing in terms of the key preoccupations of contemporary sociology - citizenship, the body and the self. The book provides a platform for a new social gerontology that sees ageing as central to our understanding of social change. It examines social, cultural and political changes in Europe and North America to address the need for a text that moves the study of ageing from social policy towards the mainstream of social science.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780582356412
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 2/7/2001
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

PREFACE:

PREFACE

Plans to write this book began ten years ago. At that time, ageing was still represented in academic textbooks as either the product of biology or the outcome of social policy. Since then ageing has become more evidently inserted into the cultural world. The emerging interest in the 'third age' and the recategorization of later life as `post-working' life constitute a significant shift in our approach to later life and the leisure opportunities it presents. Bowed neither by a weakened body nor an empty purse, many retired people now experience an infinitely richer lifestyle than that envisaged in the various old age pension Acts passed by Western governments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Social gerontology remains tied to concerns over lack and need, and still defines much of its subject matter around these themes. Attempts to move it away from this emphasis upon disability and the impoverishments of age are still met with considerable resistance. Attention paid to often seen as misguided, reflecting either an insensitivity to, or an ignorance of, the 'real' needs of pensioners.

While a small minority of ageing individuals have been acclaimed by the academic community as heroic — Maggie Kuhn of the Gray Panthers being archetypal as the politicized pensioner fighting for her rights — those other minorities who mask their age by insisting upon remaining 'beautiful people' are derided or ignored. By insisting upon loss and lack as the necessary criteria for a sociological interest in ageing, social gerontology has structured a discipline of ageing that can see it only in ,these outmoded terms.

No doubt it is true that the extremes of life are more interesting to portray than the modes. Our aim, however, is not to draw attention to examples such as Sophia Loren and Clint Eastwood as the epitomes of to ageing counter-culture. Rather it is to acknowledge the sheer variety of practices that, for a growing number of people, now make up the experience of later adult life. It is also to understand more of the cultural, social and economic processes that are sustaining and supporting that variety. Our subject, therefore, is the fragmentation of modern culture to which ageing is now a party. If biology has been seen to impose a growing homogeneity in experience with increasing age, there are also cultural processes at work that increasingly challenge such uniformity, a uniformity that had been sustained by some two hundred years of social policy. The outcome that this dialectic will have over the course of the twenty-first century is not yet clear. But what is clear is that Tom Paine's suggestion, back in 1791, to establish a pension of £6 per year for those aged 50 and over will be forever seen as a product of its time, as will any assumption that such 'pensioners' constitute 'the aged in need'.

Times change and ageing too is changed by time. The cultures of ageing outlined in our book will no doubt become more diverse over time and our understanding of ageing more contingent. Nevertheless, the themes of self and identity in later life, the material expression of ageing and the civic representation of post-working life are central dimensions through which that process of differentiation is taking place and, we believe, will continue to do so.

Chris Gilleard
Paul Higgs

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. From Political Economy to the culture of personal identity
3. Retirement, identity and consumer society
4. Identity, self-care and staying young
5. The old person as citizen
6. Senior citizenship and contemporary social policy
7. Ageing and its embodiment
8. Bio-ageing and the reproduction of the social
9. Ageing, Alzheimer's and the uncivilised body
10 The inevitablity of the cultural turn in ageing studies

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Preface

PREFACE:

PREFACE

Plans to write this book began ten years ago. At that time, ageing was still represented in academic textbooks as either the product of biology or the outcome of social policy. Since then ageing has become more evidently inserted into the cultural world. The emerging interest in the 'third age' and the recategorization of later life as `post-working' life constitute a significant shift in our approach to later life and the leisure opportunities it presents. Bowed neither by a weakened body nor an empty purse, many retired people now experience an infinitely richer lifestyle than that envisaged in the various old age pension Acts passed by Western governments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Social gerontology remains tied to concerns over lack and need, and still defines much of its subject matter around these themes. Attempts to move it away from this emphasis upon disability and the impoverishments of age are still met with considerable resistance. Attention paid to often seen as misguided, reflecting either an insensitivity to, or an ignorance of, the 'real' needs of pensioners.

While a small minority of ageing individuals have been acclaimed by the academic community as heroic — Maggie Kuhn of the Gray Panthers being archetypal as the politicized pensioner fighting for her rights — those other minorities who mask their age by insisting upon remaining 'beautiful people' are derided or ignored. By insisting upon loss and lack as the necessary criteria for a sociological interest in ageing, social gerontology has structured a discipline of ageing that can see it only in ,these outmoded terms.

No doubt it is true that the extremes of life are more interesting to portray than the modes. Our aim, however, is not to draw attention to examples such as Sophia Loren and Clint Eastwood as the epitomes of to ageing counter-culture. Rather it is to acknowledge the sheer variety of practices that, for a growing number of people, now make up the experience of later adult life. It is also to understand more of the cultural, social and economic processes that are sustaining and supporting that variety. Our subject, therefore, is the fragmentation of modern culture to which ageing is now a party. If biology has been seen to impose a growing homogeneity in experience with increasing age, there are also cultural processes at work that increasingly challenge such uniformity, a uniformity that had been sustained by some two hundred years of social policy. The outcome that this dialectic will have over the course of the twenty-first century is not yet clear. But what is clear is that Tom Paine's suggestion, back in 1791, to establish a pension of £6 per year for those aged 50 and over will be forever seen as a product of its time, as will any assumption that such 'pensioners' constitute 'the aged in need'.

Times change and ageing too is changed by time. The cultures of ageing outlined in our book will no doubt become more diverse over time and our understanding of ageing more contingent. Nevertheless, the themes of self and identity in later life, the material expression of ageing and the civic representation of post-working life are central dimensions through which that process of differentiation is taking place and, we believe, will continue to do so.

Chris Gilleard
Paul Higgs

Read More Show Less

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