Ageing and Society

The seductiveness of agelessness

a1 Department of Human Relations, University of East London


In recent years, many researchers in the study of ageing have adopted a terminology of ‘agelessness’. They argue that old age is nothing more than a social construct and that until it is eliminated as a conceptual category, ageism will continue to flourish. This article challenges this view, stating that the current tendency towards ‘agelessness’ is itself a form of ageism, depriving the old of one of their most hard-earned resources: their age. Specific theories of ageing (successful ageing, mask of ageing, continuity theory) are assessed in this light, and original data are presented as evidence of old age as a unique phase of the lifecycle replete with continued developmental possibilities.

(Accepted July 10 1998)

Key Words: old age; ageism; agelessness; life-span development.

c1 Address for correspondence: Molly Andrews, University of East London, Department of Human Relations, Longbridge Road, Dagenham, Essex, RM8 2AS; e-mail: