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Ageing, corporeality and social divisions in later life

Gilleard, Chris; Higgs, Paul; (2017) Ageing, corporeality and social divisions in later life. Ageing and Society , 37 (08) pp. 1681-1702. 10.1017/S0144686X16000532. Green open access

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Abstract

This paper concerns the social divisions of later life. Although research in this field has focused on class, gender and, more recently, sexuality as sources of division in later life, the division between the fit and the frail has tended to be ignored or viewed as an outcome of these other divisions. This paper challenges this assumption, arguing that corporeality constitutes a major social division in later life. This in many ways prefigures a return to the 19th-century categorisation of those ‘impotent through age’, whose position was among the most abject in society. Their ‘impotence’ was framed by an inability to engage in paid labour. Improved living standards during and after working life saw age's impotence fade in significance and in the immediate post-war era, social concern turned towards the relative poverty of pensioners. Subsequent demographic ageing and the expanding cultures of the third age have undermined the homogeneity of retirement. Frailty has become a major source of social division, separating those who are merely older from those who are too old. This division excludes the ‘unsuccessfully’ aged from utilising the widening range of material and social goods that characterise the third age. It is this social divide rather than those of past occupation or income that is becoming a more salient line of fracture in later life.

Type: Article
Title: Ageing, corporeality and social divisions in later life
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S0144686X16000532
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X16000532
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: corporeality, social divisions, social exclusion
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1572340
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