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Narrative approaches in the field of aging are receiving increasing attention by theorists and practitioners alike. This article draws on recent thinking in narrative gerontology to look at three aspects of aging on which a narrative perspective can shed further light. In relation to the temporal aspects, the notion of storytime is examined. Concerning its poetical aspects, the article considers the stages, styles, genres, contexts, and selves of self-storying. Under spiritual aspects, the topics of meaning and identity are explored. A discussion of these aspects may be seen to converge on the theme of wisdom and the possibility of wisdom environments.
The increasing use of biographical materials in research and intervention in the field of ageing gives rise to significant ethical issues. In this inquiry, four of these issues are explicated. First, the notion of informed consent is explored in relation to selected contexts of research and intervention in ageing and biography. Second, the issues of autonomy and competence are considered from the point of view of identifying contexts where biography is a prerequisite for ethically responsive action. The third ethical issue concerns respecting the groundrules of various biographical approaches. Finally, the notions of authenticity and truth in lifestories are explored in an attempt to clarify the limitations and expectations of ageing and biography. The discussion of these ethical issues proceeds on the basis of an argument that indicates the fundamental importance of biographical ageing or the stories we are.
The experiences of maturing and ageing constitute a rather unexplored field within Gerontology. The ‘inner’ aspects of ageing have been left relatively untouched by researchers, largely out of methodological considerations. The ‘outer’ aspect of ageing, or ageing defined as behaviour, has been considered more fruitful due to its consistency with criteria for science created by logical positivism. Psychogerontologists in particular have been mesmerized by this research paradigm. However, this trend has also, for some time now, been criticized for underestimating the perceptions of the reality upon which we form our reasons for action (Runyan 1982; Carr 1986). Further, there are exceptions to this main stream of research. For example, the German psychogerontologist Thomae created a theory of ageing in 1970 based on the perceptual, evaluative and meaning – giving processes within the individual (Thomae 1970). In a series of studies (The BOLSA studies), he has been able to lend support to most of his theoretical claims (see Kruse and Schmitz-Schertzer 1995). Also the Canadian gerontologists Reker and Wong (1988) belong to the group of pioneers advocating the importance of personal meaning in successful ageing.