Imagining feminist old age: Moving beyond ‘successful’ ageing?

Jones, Rebecca L. (2021). Imagining feminist old age: Moving beyond ‘successful’ ageing? Journal of Aging Studies (Early Access).

Abstract

This paper reports findings from a project that aimed to generate new feminist visions of later life, inspired directly by Sandberg and Marshall’s paper ‘Queering Aging Futures’ (Sandberg & Marshall, 2017). Creative workshops with groups of self-identified feminists led to the generation of a range of artefacts exploring personal visions of a good feminist old age. This paper firstly considers the features that participants most frequently imagined – which were independence, social connection, pleasurable encounters with water, and good health – here treating feminism as a participants’ resource explored through inductive analysis. The paper then explores the extent to which participants were able to imagine good feminist old age beyond the normativities of ‘successful ageing’, using a more deductive style of analysis drawing on feminist theory and feminist gerontology. Several participants imagined powerful and agentic old women who resisted the idea of older women’s powerlessness. Some imagined new emotional and psychological foci for later life, clearly distinct from those of mid-life. Others imagined future physical decline and ways of embracing or overcoming it. Finally, drawing on feminist theory about the need to be reflexive and accountable in knowledge production, the paper concludes with consideration of the researcher’s own imagined feminist old age and feminist history, and the implications this might have for the analysis presented.

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