Anti-ageing and identities

Authored by: Barbara L. Marshall

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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There are two broadly contradictory images of ageing that circulate widely in contemporary Western societies. On the one hand are portrayals of age-associated physical decline, risk and impending dependency. Rife with warnings to individuals of the necessity of planning and self-care to mitigate the risks of ageing, these images often accompany—or illustrate—alarmist demographic pronouncements of a ‘tsunami of geezers that’s about to crash on our shores and suck the wealth of future generations out to sea’ (Wente, 2012). On the other hand, there are increasing portrayals of those ‘geezers’ as health-conscious, fit, sexy and adventurous consumers, who take good care of themselves and control a significant proportion of disposable income. This more optimistic vision of ageing posits a ‘new, anti-ageist, positive senior … who bridges middle age and old age without suffering from time-bound constraints of either’ (Katz and Marshall, 2003: 5). These alternative and conflicting ‘bipolar’ (McHugh, 2003) images of ageing shape the context through which many older people negotiate their social identities.

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