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Controlling active ageing: a study of social imaginaries of older people in Chile

  • Cynthia Meersohn Schmidt (a1) and Keming Yang (a1)


A key issue in understanding the social lives of older people is how active they are in coping with the demands of ageing. Often the ‘successfulness’ of ageing is measured with medical and biological criteria. While the notion of ‘active ageing’ is more appealing and neutral, its meaning is often obscured, fragmented or inconsistent. Our aims in this study were to establish ‘active ageing’ as a process in which older people try to take control of their lives by conforming to or resisting different social imaginaries of later life, and to explore individuals’ strategies for making the best use of available resources and fending off potential risks of social exclusion. We adopted a two-stage research design. First, we produced artistic images that corresponded to social imaginaries of tensions in ageing in three social domains (politics, mass media and older people). Then, we used these images as stimuli in interviews with a balanced sample of 32 middle-aged and older residents of Santiago, Chile, to discover their strategies for coping with these tensions. Although imaginaries of ageing tended to describe ageing in terms of restrictions and stereotypes, we found diverse and increasingly flexible life projects and expectations of activity in later life.


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