Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: December 2010

13 - Positive aging:

Summary

Abstract

From a social constructionist perspective, conceptions of aging emerge from participation in relationships. Thus, there is reason to counter the Western stereotype of aging as decline with a more robust and positive vision. In the same way, resilience in everyday life may be achieved by engaging creatively and collaboratively in coordinating the flow of circumstances and interpretations making up daily life. We illustrate the potentials of resilience in terms of collaborative attempts to generate positive reconstructions of what are often defined as debilitating circumstances: reduced income, diminished attractiveness in physical appearance, declining physical and mental abilities, physical handicaps, the “empty nest,” the loss of loved ones and approaching death. As we propose, sustaining a resilient orientation requires continuous improvization, as one's life conditions continue to change. By drawing on the resources accumulated over a lifetime, and collaborating with one's contemporaries, culturally defined losses may be reconstructed and a positive confluence re-established.

As we look back at our lives, we both agree that when we were in our twenties and thirties, we had not looked forward to “growing old.” We never wanted to be identified as “old folks” and we did not look forward to “retiring.” Later we viewed with some distress the emergence of wrinkles and gray hair, and we hoped that every forgotten name was not a sign of dementia. It was not so much the signaling of oncoming death that was important in our age anxiety.

References
Adams, M. (2004). Change your questions: Change your life. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
Allaire, J. C., and Marsiske, M. (2002). Well- and ill-defined measures of everyday cognition: Relationship to older adults' intellectual ability and functional status. Psychology and Aging, 17, 101–115.
Antonucci, T., Birditt, K. S, and Akiyama, H. (2008). Convoys of social relations: An interdisciplinary approach. In Bengston, V., Silverstein, M., Putney, N., and Gans, D., (eds.), Handbook of theories of aging (pp. 247–260). New York: Springer.
Argyle, M. ( 1999). Causes and correlate of happiness. In Kahneman, D., Diener, E., and Schwarz, N. (eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 353–373). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Diener, E., Diener, M., and Diener, C. (1995). Factors predicting the subjective wellbeing of nations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 851–864.
Diener, E., and Suh, E. (1999). National differences in subjective well-­being. In Kahneman, D., Diener, E., and Schwarz, N. (eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 434–450). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Dychwald, K. (1999). Age power: How the 21st century will be ruled by the new old. New York: Penguin.
Foucault, M. (1979). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Random House.
Franklin, N. C., and Tate, C. A. (2009). Lifestyle and successful aging: An overview. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 3, 6–11.
Gergen, K. J. (1994). Realities and relationships. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Gergen, K. J. (2009). Relational being: Beyond self and community. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gergen, K. J., and Gergen, M. (2000). The new aging: Self construction and social values. In Schaie, K. W. (ed.), Social structures and aging (pp. 281–306). New York: Springer.
Gergen, K. J., and Gergen, M. (2004). Social construction: Entering the dialogue. Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute Publications.
Gergen, M., and Gergen, K. J. (2003). Positive aging: Living well as the best revenge. In Gubrium, J. and Holstein, J. (eds.), Ways of aging (pp. 203–224). New York: Blackwell.
Gergen, M., and Gergen, K. J. (2005). Positive aging: Reconstructing the life course. In Goodheart, C. and Worell, J. (eds.), Handbook of women and girls (pp. 46–426). New York: Oxford University Press.
Gergen, M., and Gergen, K. J. (2006). The prophetic power of positive questions. The Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 22, 7–15.
Gergen, M., and Gergen, K. J. (2007). Collaboration without end: The case of the Positive Aging Newsletter. In Gerhart, D. and Anderson, H. (eds.), Collaborative therapy: Relationships and conversations that make a difference (pp. 379–401). New York: Routledge.
Gorchoff, S. M., John, O. P, and Helson, R. (2008). Contextualizing change in marital satisfaction during middle age. Psychological Science, 19, 1194–2000.
Gubrium, J., and Holstein, J. (eds.) (2003). Ways of aging. New York: Blackwell.
Gubrium, J., Holstein, J. A, and Buckholdt, D. (1994). Constructing the life course. Dix Hills, NY: General Hall.
Håkansson, C. (2009). Ordinary life therapy: Experiences from a systemic collaborative practice. Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute Publications.
Hazan, H. (1994). Old age: Constructions and deconstructions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hedtke, L., and Winslade, J. (2004). Remembering lives: Conversations with the dying and the bereaved. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing.
Janoff-Bulman, R. (1992). Shattered assumptions: Towards a new psychology of trauma. New York: Free Press.
Kleinspehn-Ammerlahn, A., Kitter-Gruhn, D., and Smith, J. (2008). Self-perceptions of aging: Do subjective age and satisfaction with aging change during old age?The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 63B, P377–P385.
Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Kunkel, S. R, and Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 261–270.
Myers, D. (2000). A quiet world: Living with hearing loss. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Stroebe, M., Gergen, K. J., Gergen, M., and Stroebe, W. (1992). Broken hearts or broken bonds: Love and death in historical perspective, American Psychologist, 47, 1205–1212.
Wortman, C., and Silver, R. (1993). Successful mastery of bereavement and widowhood: A life-course perspective. In Baltes, P. and Baltes, M. (eds.), Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences (pp. 225–260). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.