Ageing and Society

‘Just live for today’. Living, caring, ageing and dying

a1 Department of Behavioural Sciences, University of Sydney


There is an assumption in western societies that death in old age is not only ‘natural’ but also ‘easy’. It is often characterised as death which occurs at the end of life with goals complete. By contrast death in youth is a traumatic and untimely end. This paper draws on interviews with people over the age of 75 to explore the nature of attitudes to death in old age. It focuses on the issues raised by elderly people themselves when given the opportunity to talk about death and dying. In so doing, attitudes to death and dying are separated into ‘death of self’ and ‘death of other’. Each of these categories is then divided thematically according to the issues raised by respondents.

(Accepted February 11 1998)

Key Words: death; dying; attitudes; caring; self; disengagement.

c1 Address for correspondence: Glennys Howarth. Department of Behavioural Sciences, The University of Sydney, PO Box 170, Lidcombe, NSW 2141, Australia. email