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Ageing, the Imperative of Health and the Shadows of the Fourth Age Key note speakers

mercredi 29 jun 2016
Faculté des sciences de la société - Département de sociologie

One of the major successes of the latter part of the twentieth century and the early decades of the twenty first has been the improvement in the health of the retired population. The reasons for this are diverse and much debated, but one of the consequences for older people is that they are now expected to participate in what has been called’ the imperative of health’ alongside people of all ages. Whereas once later life was seen as a time of passivity and acceptance of the conditions of old age it is now deemed to be an arena of both health prevention and the exercise of ‘technologies of the self’. Pursuing ‘fitness’ may be tempered by age but it is only one of the challenges posed to the somatic cultures of the Third Age. As important is the capacity to demonstrate agency and distinction in ‘ageing successfully’ . As a consequence, it has been argued, not only are there differences between ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ ageing there is also a growing ‘normative’ dimension to the nature of health discourses in later life. This has been established in studies on physical activity in later life as well as being evidenced in the discourses of popular health products and diets. What has not been addressed in as much depth is the backdrop to the imperative of health in later life, namely the impact of the social imaginary of the fourth age upon those participating in the Third Age. This paper addresses this dimension of ‘unsuccessful ageing’ and draws out the relationship between these two very different discourses of old age and their implications for the study of health at older ages.