Opposite Ends: widows' narratives of contemporary late life

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Paula Vasara


The life course perspective frames this study of contemporary late life. Thematic narrative analysis is employed to analyse the stories of 16 Finn­ish widows aged 79–89 years (Moving in Old Age: Transitions in Housing and Care research project) in order to explore the experiences related to growing old. The results indicate two kinds of narratives: nostalgic rem­iniscences about a happy past are typical of the retiring to solitude story, characterised by experiences of life nearing its end and of letting go; and those inclined towards the keeping up narrative are still seeking new ex­periences and playing active roles in everyday life. Both kinds of stories encompass well-being, in spite of their apparent differences in outcome. These results indicate that there is no single description of ageing well. Individual experiences of growing old are unique, and are interpreted within the frame of past experiences and understandings acquired over the life course. Therefore, leeway should be given for individual consider­ations regarding the particularities of life arrangements in advanced age.


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