Ageing and Society

Articles

Narratives at work: what can stories of older athletes do?

CASSANDRA PHOENIXa1 c1 and MERIDITH GRIFFINa2

a1 European Centre for the Environment and Human Health, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, UK.

a2 Sport and Health Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.

ABSTRACT

Previous research has shown that young adults tend to identify and reinforce negative stereotypes of growing older. They can express both fear and trepidation regarding the bodily changes that occur with advancing age. With this in mind, in this paper we draw upon Frank's (2010) theoretical framework of socio-narratology to examine the work that stories can do. We take as a working example the impact that stories of ageing told by masters athletes might have upon young adults, and specifically their perceptions of (self-)ageing. Three focus groups were carried out with the young adults to examine their perceptions of (self-)ageing prior to and following their viewing of a digital story portraying images and narratives of mature, natural (‘drug-free’) bodybuilders. Our analysis pointed to a number specific capacities that stories of masters athletes might have, namely the potential to re-open young adults sense of narrative foreclosure, the stretching and expanding of existing imagined storylines, and increasing the availability of narrative options. We propose that understanding what stories can do, what they can do best, and the narrative environments that help and hinder this process is essential if our programmes and policies are to produce the results that are wanted.

(Accepted November 04 2011)

(Online publication December 13 2011)

KEY WORDS

  • narrative;
  • stories;
  • socio-narratology;
  • masters athletes;
  • natural bodybuilding;
  • exercise;
  • young adults;
  • visual methods

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Cassandra Phoenix, European Centre for the Environment and Human Health, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, Knowledge Spa, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro TR1 3HD, UK. E-mail: Cassandra.Phoenix@pcmd.ac.uk