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Portraying ageing: its contradictions and paradoxes

Lynne Segal (Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London, London, UK)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the stigma surrounding old age, which in many ways has increased rather than decreased with the ageing of the population.


The approach of this paper is to introduce the reader to recent writing and research surrounding talk of a “demograhic time bomb”, with the ageing of populations world wide. It also looks back on the work on “ageing studies” over the last two decades, revealing the prevailing disavowals of old age among the old themselves, as well as the contrasting gendered dynamics of the ways in which we are, as Margaret Gullette writes, “aged by culture”.


–The author introduces the conceptual notion of “temporal vertigo” to the complicated effects of the multiplicity of continuities and discontinuities older people experience when reflecting upon who they are over a lifetime. Ageing is of interest for those who have always been sceptical about any notion of the “true self”, allowing us to puzzle over how the account the old give of themselves will rely upon their ability to incorporate differing versions of the self, woven into the volatilities of memory and fantasy.


The paper's exploration of the radical ambiguities in the representation and discussions surrounding old age in these times.



Segal, L. (2015), "Portraying ageing: its contradictions and paradoxes", Working with Older People, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 3-11.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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