Old Age: Social Construction and Personal Narratives

In welfare societies, the growing number of the elderly is being constructed as a problem through dominant discourses on the economic and social effects of population ageing. The study first looks at the processes and factors that, intertwined with the ideology problematizing the demographic change, contribute to the creation of a social construction of old age that presents the elderly as a homogenized group that uses up the resources produced by the active population and is in need of care and nourishment. It covers in detail the phenomenon defined by certain authors as apocalyptic demography and the role of medicalization. Ideas that infantile the elderly, and position them as people relying on others and being in a vulnerable situation, symbolically deprive older people of their full adult status and create unequal relationships between age groups. Power relations thus created are interpreted by using Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic violence. The paper then seeks to present the diversity of life situations in old age using the method of narrative biographical analysis. Contrary to the logic of perceiving old age as a homogenized category and alienating it from the rest of the life course, the study argues that experiencing the late life stage can vary greatly from person to person depending on their individual life path.

Released: Replika 117–118, 237–263.