chapter  7
17 Pages

Ageing urban society: Discourse and policy

ByIAN G. COOK, JASON L. POWELL

The experiences, representations and images of older people in China have increasingly become important in both the discipline and practice of social science. Indeed, social policy based on old age appears to be moving from its traditional concern with “public issues” in China to the question of how ageing is socially perceived and experienced by individual social actors related to consumerism on the one hand, and population control on the other (Powell and Cook 2000). Ageing identities have been grounded in policy discourses and professions of health and social care and the institutionalization of state care policy in China (Cook and Powell, 2005a). However, a perceived corrosion of these structures has led to an interiorization of the ground upon which a viable ageing identity can be constructed. There are two key issues that are important in exploring the relationship between personal experiences of ageing and policy discourse. Part of the seductive array of discourses centers on “active” lifestyles in urban society. Further, these discourses that impinge on ageing have thereby taken on a “normative” dimension, which mediates a daily understanding of what it is to “successfully” age through the life-course. It may be possible to critically assess social spaces created for older people in terms of the relationship allowed to exist between their inner world social identity and the outer world of China. An examination of the relationship between China, urbanization and ageing

policy must acknowledge the fact that social and economic discourses shape the perceptions of old age in the popular imagination. Ageing is a site upon which power is distributed and power games are played out mainly through “narratives.” As Biggs and Powell (2001: 103) suggest

narratives are not simply personal fictions that we choose to live by, but are discourses that are subject to social and historical influence. Narratives of aging [sic] are personal in so far as we apply techniques to ourselves, while the technologies and the ground on which they are told imply particular distributions of power that will determine the way and the what of the storyline.