a1 Faculty of Sociology, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada.
a2 School of Social Work, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada.
In this article we shall be analysing the representations of old age and ageing made by three generations of older women with different life stories (single, married, children and childless). Our principal findings, based on a qualitative analysis of 25 in-depth interviews conducted with three generations of older women (65–74, 75–84 and 85 and older), mainly reveal their reluctance and even refusal to define themselves as ‘older or elderly women’, largely due to persistent stereotypes linking old age to dependency, social isolation and fragility. Aware of the social prejudice regarding women and old age, they reject it unanimously. Older women represent a challenge to these homogenising preconceptions of old age, which they, on the contrary, experience in a multitude of ways, often enjoyable. Their conceptions of ‘ageing well’ are diverse and do not correspond to a clinical definition of ageing. Their representations of ‘ageing well’ and of ageing express positive values of autonomy, independence, consistency and integrity, maintenance of physical and intellectual health, and being socially active so they can ‘stay in the swing of things’, in the continuum of their lives and future projects, rather breaking with contemporary life or existing on the margins of society.
(Accepted July 06 2011)
(Online publication October 10 2011)