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Older women's body image: a lifecourse perspective

  • TONI LIECHTY (a1) and CAREEN M. YARNAL (a2)

Abstract

Body-image research has focused on younger women and girls, and tended to ignore women in later life, although recent studies have called for more research into the body image of older women, particularly from a lifecourse perspective. The lifecourse perspective can address the complexity of body image by identifying personal and/or environmental factors that shape body image and the trajectories of body image across the lifecourse. Accordingly the purpose of the study reported in this paper was to explore older women's body image using a lifecourse perspective. We conducted individual interviews and follow-up focus groups with 13 women aged 60–69 years, all of them resident in a United States non-metropolitan county (its largest city having a population of 38,420) and having lived in the country for more than 30 years. The findings highlight the influence of inter-personal relationships (e.g. with a spouse or parent), the macro-environment (e.g. media or community attitudes) and key life events (e.g. physiological changes or educational experiences) that shaped body image at various life stages. In addition, the findings demonstrate that as women age, they de-prioritise appearance in favour of health or internal characteristics. Finally, the findings highlight the complexity of body image as a construct, which includes attitudes toward appearance, evaluations of health and physical ability, and assessments of appearance.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Toni Liechty, Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, University of Regina, 373 Wascana Parkway, Regina, SK S4S 0A2, Canada. E-mail: toni.liechty@uregina.ca

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Keywords

Older women's body image: a lifecourse perspective

  • TONI LIECHTY (a1) and CAREEN M. YARNAL (a2)

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