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Unmasking the 'elderly mystique': Why it is time to make the personal political in ageing research.

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Carney, Gemma M 


This article uses feminist scholarship to investigate 'the elderly mystique'-which contends that the potential of old age is masked by a set of false beliefs about ageing (i.e. ageism) which permeate social, economic, and political life (Cohen, 1988). The article presents a theoretical model which explores the extent to which institutionalised ageism shapes the trajectory of life after 60.(1) The hypothesis underpinning the model is simple: The challenge for ageing societies is not the average age of a given population, but rather, how age is used to structure economic, social and political life. An inter-disciplinary framework is used to examine how biological facts about ageing are used to segregate older from younger people, giving older people the status of 'other'; economically through retirement, politically through assumptions about 'the grey vote,' and socially through ageist stereotyping in the media and through denial and ridicule of the sexuality of older people. Each domain is informed by the achievements of feminist theory and research on sexism and how its successes and failures can inform critical investigations of ageism. The paper recognises the role of ageism in de-politicising the lived experience of ageing. The paper concludes that feminist scholarship, particularly work by feminists in their seventies, eighties, and nineties, has much to offer in terms of re-framing gerontology as an emancipatory project for current and future cohorts of older people.



Ageism, Cultural gerontology, Elderly mystique, Feminism, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Ageism, Aging, Female, Feminism, Geriatrics, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Politics, Research, Stereotyping

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J Aging Stud

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Elsevier BV