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The radical demographic change produced by the ageing population in the Western world has entailed a complete transformation of its popular culture. The cinema is one of the popular arts to have been especially affected by the so-called ‘longevity revolution’. In fact, an important part of Hollywood celebrity culture and the mainstream film audiences belong to the same ageing demographic. The increasing necessity to tell and consume stories of ageing for the big screen is not only reflected in the growing number of films that feature older characters in their lead roles, but also in the changes produced in the cinematic narratives themselves. Film scholars within the inter-disciplinary field of cultural gerontology have started to address this phenomenon from various perspectives. Building on from their critical consideration, this article focuses on the particular case of Michael Radford's Elsa & Fred, a contemporary film released in 2014 that, paradoxically enough, helps renovate the youth-oriented genre of the romantic comedy through a ‘silvering’ romance. Taking into account contemporary manifestations of the romantic comedy genre, the essay proves that Radford's comedy contributes to the development of the ‘gerontocom’ as a new sub-genre in which old age is central to the protagonists’ characterisations and storylines. By considering the interaction of the generic rules of the genre with the hyper-visibility of the protagonists’ agedness, this article also shows the ways in which the film overcomes polarised views of ageing and enhances the figures’ own process of becoming in the last stage of their lives.
The development of social gerontology has led to the emergence of its own terminology and conceptual armoury. ‘Ageism’ has been a key concept in articulating the mission of gerontology and was deliberately intended to act as an equivalent to the concepts of racism and sexism. As a term, it has established itself as a lodestone for thinking about the de-valued and residualised social status of older people in contemporary society. Given this background, ageism has often been used to describe an overarching ideology that operates in society to the detriment of older people and which in large part explains their economic, social and cultural marginality. This paper critiques this approach and suggests an alternative based upon the idea of the social imaginary of the fourth age. It argues that not only is the idea of ageism too totalising and contradictory but that it fails to address key aspects of the corporeality of old age. Adopting the idea of a social imaginary offers a more nuanced theoretical approach to the tensions that are present in later life without reducing them to a single external cause or explanation. In so doing, this leaves the term free to serve, in a purely descriptive manner, as a marker of prejudice.
Understanding how social experiences throughout life shape later loneliness levels may help to identify how to alleviate loneliness at later lifestages. This study investigates the association between social relationship adversities throughout the lifecourse and loneliness in later life. Using prospective data from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development (N = 2,453), we conducted multivariable analyses to investigate independent, cumulative and moderated effects between the number of social relationship adversities experienced in childhood, mid-adulthood and later adulthood and the feeling of loneliness at age 68. We examined interactions between social relationship adversities and current quantity and quality aspects of social relationships. We found evidence of a step-dose response where greater exposure to social relationship adversities experienced at three earlier lifestages predicted higher loneliness levels in later life with more recent social relationship adversities more strongly related to loneliness. The results also demonstrated support for exacerbation and amelioration of earlier adverse social relationship experiences by current social isolation and relationship quality, respectively. This study suggests that social relationship adversities experienced throughout the lifecourse continue to influence loneliness levels much later in life. A key finding is that adverse social relationship experiences in earlier life may explain why otherwise socially similar individuals differ in their levels of loneliness. Implications for policy and research are discussed.
The study explores the role of clothing in the constitution of embodied masculinity in age, contrasting its results with an earlier study of women. It draws four main conclusions. First that men's responses to dress were marked by continuity both with their younger selves and with mainstream masculinity, of which they still felt themselves to be part. Age was less a point of challenge or change than for many women. Second, men's responses were less affected by cultural codes in relation to age. Dress was not, by and large, seen through the lens of age; and there was not the sense of cultural exile that had marked many of the women's responses. Third, for some older men dress could be part of wider moral engagement, expressive of values linked positively to age, embodying old-fashioned values that endorsed their continuing value as older men. Lastly, dress in age reveals some of the ways in which men retain aspects of earlier gender privilege. The study was based on qualitative interviews with 24 men aged 58–85, selected to display a range in terms of social class, occupation, sexuality, employment and relationship status. It forms part of the wider intellectual movement of cultural gerontology that aims to expand the contexts in which we explore later years; and contributes to a new focus on materiality within sociology.
Spouses (and partners) are the most important source of care in old age. Informal care for frail spouses is provided by both sexes and across all socio-economic backgrounds and welfare policy contexts. There are, however, interesting differences as to whether spouses care alone, receive informal support from other family members or formal support from professional helpers, or outsource the care of their spouse completely. The present article contributes to the literature by differentiating between solo spousal care-giving and shared or outsourced care-giving arrangements, as well as between formal and informal care support. Moreover, we show how care-giving arrangements vary with gender, socio-economic status and welfare policy. Adding to previous research, we compare 17 countries and their expenditures on two elder-care schemes: Cash-for-Care and Care-in-Kind. The empirical analyses draw on the most recent wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) data from 2015. Our results show that men have a higher propensity to share care-giving than women, albeit only with informal supporters. As expected, welfare policy plays a role insofar as higher expenditure on Cash-for-Care schemes encourage informally outsourced care-giving arrangements, whereas Care-in-Kind reduce the likelihood for informally shared or outsourced care-giving arrangements. Moreover, the influence of these welfare policy measures differs between individuals of different socio-economic status but not between men and women.
The psycho-social contexts of older lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals suggest that they may face unique strengths and barriers in accessing social support. The present review aimed to explore what is known about this by providing a synthesis of this area of research and a methodological critique. The Applied Social Sciences Index (ASSIA), Psychinfo and Medline databases were searched and 22 relevant articles were identified. Key findings were extracted and quality was assessed using a standardised rating scale. The findings indicated that although many older LGB people report similar-sized support networks to older heterosexuals, more support came from friends and less from biological family members. Many reported not receiving enough support; it is possible that differences in care-giving between friends and family and anticipated social support difficulties due to previous LGB-stigma experiences partially account for this. Current recruitment strategies may mean that more-connected older LGB people are over-represented in research. There is a lack of research with the ‘old-old’ population, bisexual people, those with significant health needs, those outside the United States of America and those with additional characteristics associated with discrimination. Practical and research implications are discussed and it is suggested that friendship–carer dyads may need support to have more explicit discussions about care-giving roles due to a lack of societal templates for these kinds of relationships.
Drawing on the revived literature on the subjective dimension of ageing, this paper investigates whether people aged 65+, usually defined as old, do actually feel old and which events they associate with feeling old. Logistic models are used on unique data from the 2013 survey called ‘I Do Not Want to Be Inactive’, conducted on individuals aged 65–74 in Italy (N = 828). It is found that a large proportion of respondents do not feel old at all. The analyses show that women are more likely than men to feel old and to think that society considers them old. While men feel old mainly when they retire, women associate this feeling with loneliness, loss of independence and death of loved ones. Higher-educated people are less likely to associate feeling old with loneliness and boredom than their lower-educated counterparts. The findings have important implications for the conceptualisation of ageing. Most people who are old according to the standard threshold of 65 do not consider reaching this age as a distinctive marker of old age in their lifecourse. This suggests that absolute thresholds for setting the start of old age are questionable. Feeling old seems to be mainly influenced by events, such as retirement and death of loved ones, hinting to the importance of the social construction of ageing in addition to its biological dimension. Researchers and policy makers are encouraged to give more attention to layperson views on ageing.
In this comparative study focusing on the population aged 50 and over in three European countries, we investigate the association between household debt and depressive symptoms, and possible country differences in this association, using data from Waves 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the Surveys of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) for Belgium, France and Germany. Multi-level regression models with random intercepts for individuals were used to analyse the association between household debt status and number of depressive symptoms (EURO-D score). Country differences in the household debt–depression nexus were tested using country interaction models. After controlling for other measures of socio-economic position and physical health, low or substantial financial debt was associated with a higher number of depressive symptoms in all countries. Housing debt was strongly linked to depressive symptoms for women while the association was weaker for men. The only country difference was that for both sexes substantial financial debt (more than €5,000) was strongly associated with depressive symptoms in Belgium and Germany, but the association was weak or non-significant in France. Associations between financial debt and depression were also evident in analyses of within-individual changes in depressive symptoms for a longitudinal sub-group, and in analyses using a dichotomised, rather than a continuous, measure of depression. The findings indicate that measures of household indebtedness should be taken into consideration in investigations of social inequalities in depression and suggest a need for mental health services targeted at indebted older people.