Affirmative old age - the ageing body and feminist theories on difference

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Linn Sandberg


Discourses on old age and ageing are framed in narrow and binary ways, either as a decline narrative or through discourses of positive and successful ageing. The decline narrative, on the one hand, is highly centred on the decline of the ageing body as frail, leaky and unbounded, and on how old age is characterised by non-productivity, increasing passivity and dependency. Discourses on successful ageing, on the other hand, rely heavily on neo-liberal imperatives of activity, autonomy and responsibility. In successful ageing, the specificities of ageing bodies are largely overlooked while the capacity of the old person to retain a youthful body, for example, with the aid of sexuopharmaceuticals, is celebrated. This article argues for the need of a theorising of old age that goes beyond the binaries of decline and success. Drawing on the work of feminist corpomaterialists Rosi Braidotti and Elisabeth Grosz, the article proposes affirmative old age as an alternative conceptualisation of old age.

As a theoretical project, affirmative old age aims to acknowledge the material specificities of the ageing body and is an attempt to theorise the ageing body in terms of difference but without understanding it as a body marked by decline, lack or negation.


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