The social construction of ageing: Australian and Welsh perspectives
Australian Psychological Society
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Arts and Humanities/School of Education
In recent years, a strong focus has emerged towards developing and implementing guidelines, policies, governmental strategies, and research agendas that best support a growing ageing population. However, policies and theoretical understandings of ageing have been questioned in regard to their continued medicalisation, problematising, and objectification of the ageing experience. To explore the different ways in which older adults make meaning of their experiences of ageing, a qualitative methodology, guided by the theoretical underpinnings of phenomenology and social constructionism was used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants from four distinct contexts, three of which were located in Western Australia (WA), including 17 participants from a healthy ageing program; 12 participants who have withdrawn from a healthy ageing program; and 15 participants from a community sample. The fourth sample comprised of 15 participants from a community sample in Wales, United Kingdom (UK). The data revealed that whilst participants described feeling that the dominant discourse in wider society caused them to anticipate ageing as a stage in life centred on experiencing decline and loss (e.g., a decline in mental functioning, or a loss of mobility), it was also evident that psychological, social, and political aspects were of equal, or greater significance to the meaningful understandings they constructed about their personal ageing experience. Further, the data contends that a pressing need exists to evaluate the way in which ageing policy is effectively translated into practice, that is, in a way that closely aligns with the lived experiences of ageing as had by individuals.