Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 May 2015
In this chapter, we explain our selection of forty cases for individual study from members of the Southampton Ageing Project (1977–8 to 2002–3) and briefly comment on their general characteristics. We then survey the self-descriptions that were provided over the first ten and more years of the study. This is followed by an account of the methods we followed in the final ten years in assembling and analyzing material to produce detailed individual case studies. Finally, we provide an introduction to our present accounts of the cases in the subsequent chapters.
Participants included in the case analysis
Although we only received concentrated funding for case study analysis in 1995, we began to identify and interview in depth selected members of our sample from 1990 onwards, when the sample was all aged over seventy-seven years. In 1995–6, we were able to complete case study accounts on each of the twenty-eight remaining participants. Together with those cases that we had begun beforehand and who had died in the intervening years, we succeeded in composing a total of forty case analyses (twenty-three women and seventeen men). In most cases, we conducted a further interview in which we checked our written conclusions with the participants and invited their comments. Later interviews were also conducted with surviving members of the sample by the first author as well as by the second or third author who had interviewed them regularly over the preceding years.
Brief descriptive details on each case, including year of birth, principal occupation, age at leaving full-time education and age at death, are provided in the Appendix. Pseudonyms replace the original names in the Appendix and throughout the text. The majority of the sample (twenty-seven of forty) were still married when we first interviewed them in 1977–8, and all had been married at one time in their lives. Three persons were divorced or separated.