Ageism and Narratives: Negative Images of Aging and Stories in Later Life

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 13:30
Oral Presentation
Tomoko TAMARI, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
Aging is a pressing social issue for contemporary societies and that is often related to personal concerns about declining mental and health conditions. The paper provides an initial exploration of images of aging through considering both ageism and gerotranscendence by examining the validity of personal life story narratives as a research method. The focus is not on whether the stories were based actual events, rather the concern is on how and why the stories are formulated by older people who seek greater self-integration by editing their own narratives produced over time. The life-stories are formulated by a complex process which entails them being continuously re-written and re-interpreted to assimilate to dominant discourses and normative images of aging. The stories can also emerge in interaction processes which are produced by specific social and political relationships between speakers and listeners in various contexts. To articulate this process, the paper examines older people’s self-internalizing (self-victimizing) processes of ageism which often implies negative images of aging. It also critically investigates the possibility of life satisfaction in later life (gerotranscendence) from both sociological and psychoanalytical perspectives. By doing this, the paper seeks to unpack the mechanisms involved in socially constructed ageism to investigate the ways in which ageism becomes embedded in the older people’s self-perception and incorporated into images of aging in social life. The life-stories can therefore be seen as reflections of aging people’s lived life. The conclusion proposes ‘individual autonomy’ which the emphasizes significance of listening to the older people’s voices, and understanding the social and political backgrounds of their life-stories, in order to adjust to contemporary aging society.