Old Age or “Third Age”? Discourses of Individuals’ Subjective Perceptions of Their Own Age-Related Changes

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Olga Maximova


The concept of aging has quite contradictory characteristics and interpretations in the academic literature. The most developed are biological (gerontological), chronological, and sociological approaches. In the social sciences the phenomenon of aging has a complex structure—it cannot be studied outside the social, cultural, and historical factors existing in a particular society.
  Following the notion of social construction of aging, I believe that in order to analyze aging and old age not only as socially constructed phenomena but as individual strategies and practices, we must investigate how individuals themselves subjectively explain their age and actions related to it and how they present their own discourse of aging and perception of age-related changes. According to the adopted methodological framework, narrative interviews with informants aged 63 to 83 years became the main method of collecting data for this study.
  As the results of the study demonstrate, individuals who by the criteria of age are assigned to the category of the “elderly” manifest an ambivalent attitude toward the process of aging. Assessing the current period of their life, informants associate it with wisdom, experience, and the possibility of self-realization, including in those areas where before they could not prove themselves due to the burden of professional and family responsibilities.
  Advanced age is characterized by informants, first of all, as a time of assessing one’s life, summing up its results, while the number of years lived is perceived rather as a given that has only a formal meaning but does not directly affect their inner sense of self. Informants who continue working see it as an opportunity to remain useful, in demand, rather than purely as a source of (albeit not unimportant) additional income. The main things that the elderly value, as the study revealed, are self-satisfaction, family, health, having friends, and various kinds of activities (labor, civic, or family) that allow them to feel needed.

Article in Russian

DOI: 10.25285/2078-1938-2020-12-2-22-44


Old Age, Aging, Social Construction of Aging, Discourse, Age-Related Changes

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