Studies Of Ageing Masculinities: Still in their Infancy?

Watts, Jackie and Tarrant, Anna eds. (2014). Studies Of Ageing Masculinities: Still in their Infancy? Representation of Older People in Ageing Research Series, 14. London: Centre for Policy on Ageing.



The papers included in this collection focus on some of the pioneering theoretical and methodological work that is contributing to the development of a research agenda that seeks to draw attention to, and enhance understandings of, the complexities of the lives of older and ageing men. Four of the chapters in this collection were presented at the fifteenth in a series of seminars exploring the representation of older people in ageing research, organised by the Open University’s Centre for Ageing and Biographical Studies and hosted by the Centre for Policy in Ageing. Previous seminars in this series have focused on a wide range of topics including recruitment and sampling, age discrimination, oral history methods and working with older people’s organisations. The aim of the seminar on which this volume draws was to bring together scholars and interested parties from different universities and sectors, career stages, and disciplines to explore and examine how the study of men’s experiences of ageing as men has progressed in recent years. One intention was to showcase up-and-coming research in this field so five speakers (Kate Davidson, Kate Bennett, Paul Simpson, Robin Hadley and Anna Tarrant) were invited to present papers at the seminar. Unfortunately, Paul Simpson was unable to contribute a chapter to this volume, but David Jackson has
kindly provided one in his place.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 40773
  • Item Type
  • Edited Book
  • ISBN
  • 0-904139-23-9, 978-0-904139-23-5
  • Extra Information
    The first chapter in this collection, by Dr Kate Davidson, summarises the keynote paper given at the seminar which focused on the health and social networks of older men. In the chapter Kate discusses results from both quantitative and qualitative research about older men’s lives, analysing data collected with colleagues from the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender (CRAG) over an eleven-year period. In particular, she focuses on the effect that marital status has on older men’s well-being and reflects on the implications of such findings for researching older men’s lives. The second paper by Dr Kate Bennett, Reader at the University of Liverpool, provides fascinating insight into the ways in which older men’s masculine identities are significantly challenged by spousal bereavement. The narratives presented reveal that through both talk and action, the men variously attempt to manage and reconstruct their identities, while attempting to reconcile the contradictions of ageing and masculinity with societal expectations of bereavement.

    Dr Anna Tarrant, then a Research Associate at the Open University, provides the third paper in this collection. This paper reflects on the role of the body in grandfathers’ practices with their grandchildren. Being a family provider and family man is traditionally associated with idealised, or hegemonic manifestations of masculinity, yet grandfatherhood represents a stage beyond fatherhood and is intersected by processes of ageing and associated bodily decline. Through consideration of the ways in which men narrate the role of the body in grandfatherhood, the chapter provides insight into the ways men diversely negotiate bodily manifestations of ageing when grandfathering and reflects on the limitations of hegemonic masculinity as the dominant theoretical framework for understanding older men’s family lives and social relationships. As mentioned, the fourth paper in this collection, contributed by independent researcher David Jackson, replaces a presentation that was given at the seminar by Dr Paul Simpson. Paul’s paper outlined how middle-aged gay men (in their late-30s to early 60s) in Manchester respond to growing older and (gay) ageism, focusing specifically on their everyday practices of selfpresentation. He presented narrative and participant observation data about the men’s stories of alienation, ambivalence and agency, to indicate how macro-social/discourses play out at the micro-scale. This approach especially illuminated the importance of the enmeshments of difference (namely age and sexuality) with masculinity. This theoretically significant research really pushes the limits of hegemonic masculinity as a dominant theory in the study of men as men, something that David’s paper also achieves. In his chapter, David critically argues for methodological and theoretical innovation in the study of older men’s lives. Advocating autobiographical methods as well as biographical enquiry, he argues that engaging older men in the research process and focusing on men’s shifting and contradictory realities is essential for the development of research that is sensitive to the ambiguities and subjective complexity of men’s lives.

    The final paper in the collection by Keele University doctoral researcher, Robin Hadley, explores some of the challenges he faced in accessing and recruiting older men for the sensitive topic of their involuntary childlessness. In considering his doctoral research, he outlines some of the difficulties he encountered in finding suitable participants and reflects on some of the innovative ways that eventually resulted in him interviewing 14 participants. Robin’s chapter exemplifies the need for the social researcher and others working with older men to carefully design and implement strategies for recruitment that are sensitive to older men as a social group.

    The collection of papers in this volume showcase the kinds of theoretical and methodological innovation that is currently contributing to a better understanding of the complexities of older men’s lives and the conduct of social qualitative research with this diverse group. Each focuses on different aspects of older men’s lives but a key theme that connects each of the five articles/chapters in this volume is the desire to reflect on, and understand the theoretical and methodological challenges of researching the gendered experiences of older and ageing men’s lives in order to make their experiences, social worlds and identities, more visible.
  • Keywords
  • ageing; gender; masculinities; research methods
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
    Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2014 Centre for Policy on Ageing
  • Depositing User
  • Jacqueline H. Watts