Ageing Identities in the Twenty-First Century: The Social and Practical Effects of Talk About Being Old

  • Christine StephensEmail author
  • Mary Breheny


As the population ages in the twenty-first century, older people are increasingly being identified as a problem to society. Older people are commonly constructed as the subjects of deterioration, dependency, and burden discourses. At the same time, recent social policy responses to increases in life expectancy and the rapid increase in the older population have shifted from a focus on care towards the valorisation of independence, participation, and activity for older people. These dominant discourses restrict opportunities for participation as a contributing citizen, oppress those with fewer resources, and must be balanced with bodily, health, and social life changes. Older citizens take up or resist available identities through narratives and practices that reflect differences in resources, health, and social status. This chapter illustrates this variation by analysing the ways older people in New Zealand talk about their everyday activities. The analysis shows how discursive constructions of ageing provide contradictory identities which older people must negotiate to maintain an identity as a virtuous citizen.


Ageism Ageing identities Participation Critical enquiry Discourse Social policy 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Health SciencesMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

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