Suffering and pain in old age

Authored by: Kate de Medeiros , Helen Black

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415631143
eBook ISBN: 9780203097090
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221033


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Experiences of pain and suffering are often seen as part of old age (Kirsch & Smith, 2000; Helme & Gibson, 2001; Gagliese & Melzack, 1997). This raises the question: do elders themselves view pain and suffering as a ‘normative’ part of old age? To explore this question, the chapter first considers the concept of pain, a word that at times has been used interchangeably with suffering; the differences and similarities between the two in the context of old age; and why such differences are crucial to an adequate understanding of the experience of suffering in old age. Finally, research findings on the meanings that older adults give to the suffering experience will provide a context through which to consider whether gerontological research has acquired adequate ways to grasp and interpret elders’ experiences of pain and suffering.

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