Alcohol, the Body and Gender in Later Life

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:30 AM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Clare HOLDSWORTH , Centre for Social Policy Research, Keele University, UK, Keele, United Kingdom
Alcohol consumption in later life has emerged as a public health concern in many advanced economies in recent years associated with an observed increase in alcohol consumption among the elderly. The dominate public health message has centred on the need to moderate drinking  in later life due to the direct and indirect impact that alcohol has on frailty in later life.  This paper challenges the assumption that increased alcohol is associated with functional as well as social decline, but in doing so recognises how assumptions about the inter-relationship between alcohol consumption are both gendered and class-specific. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative data on alcohol consumption in later life we explore how drinking is a cultural practice that both resists and conforms to expectations about ageing and frailty.  In particular we consider how drinking patterns are both gendered and classed and how drinking is a practice through which idealized norms of femininity and masculinity are performed in old age, but also how these can be resisted. The paper is based on quantitative analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and qualitative analysis of focus groups with older people on drinking in later life.