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  • Cited by 5
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: December 2010

13 - Positive aging:



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.

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