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More than thirty-five years ago, a longitudinal study was established to research the health and well-being of older people living in an English city. Self and Meaning in the Lives of Older People provides a unique set of portraits of forty members of this group who were interviewed in depth from their later seventies onwards. Focusing on sense of self-esteem and, especially, of continued meaning in life following the loss of a spouse and onset of frailty, this book sensitively illustrates these persons' efforts to maintain independence, to continue to have a sense of belonging and to contribute to the lives of others. It examines both the psychological and the social resources needed to flourish in later life and draws attention to this generation's ability to benefit from strong family support and from belonging to a faith community. In conclusion, it questions whether future generations will be as resilient.


'This sensitive and insightful study takes us through the last decades of life for a group of older people, stepping along with them in time and hearing what is important to them. Sometimes moving, but often heartening, this book should be read by anyone with an interest in the inner life as we age and in identifying what is needed if we are all to age in ways that we would choose.'

Joanna Bornat - The Open University, Milton Keynes

‘Peter Coleman and his colleagues provide a unique and powerful account of the changing inner lives of older people. Profound, humane, scholarly and grounded in rich data, it tells us more than a thousand other studies of older people about the inner meanings of becoming and being old. It will stand alongside Erikson, Butler and Baltes in the psychology of later life.’

Malcolm Johnson - University of Bath

‘This comprehensive book provides an excellent qualitative view of later life with focus on interpersonal relationships, health and mental health, religion, and self-esteem. It is a rich volume highlighting individual trajectories in late and very late life which features a ground-breaking collection of new ideas and perspectives that surely will help stimulate new research hypotheses. The authors skillfully engage readers on a personal level, and the detailed and rich case studies will undoubtedly be used in graduate classes and serve as the foundation for wide-ranging discussions. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the approach taken by the authors as they provide such a refreshing view on ageing by including a mix of real-life examples and scholarly interpretations.’

Peter Martin - Iowa State University

'This book provides unique insights into the lives of people in late old age. Through rich case study material, readers are provided with a remarkable window into the way in which older people maintain their identity and integrity notwithstanding the impact of illness and bereavement. A triumph of committed and dedicated research.'

Chris Phillipson - University of Manchester

'This book concentrates on the adjustments to two transitions characteristic of later life, from living with a partner to living alone, and from living independently to needing care and support. Its account is illumined by a deep knowledge of international longitudinal studies of living into advanced old age, and is consistently illuminating, subtle and empathetic. Both study and book will be major influences upon and resources for developmental social and psychological gerontology for a long time to come.'

Tony Warnes - University of Sheffield

'What should captivate the reader are the participants’ own words, and they do … I was engrossed in the first-person accounts, thinking increasingly of different ways to use them … Simply put: wow.'

Lauren S. Seifert Source: PsycCRITIQUES

'It is a book I would recommend to anyone with an interest in growing older, from the general reader to the undergraduate student, to postgraduates and to established academics. I certainly will be recommending it to my students, and I look forward to re-reading this book over the years.'

Kate Bennett Source: Ageing and Society

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