chapter  3
15 Pages

Shame and the ageing body

WithKEVIN J. McKEE AND MERRYN GOTT

Within Western societies, nearly everybody appears to hold negative stereotypes of ageing and older people. Common stereotypes of old age are that most older people are confused, resigned to decline, tired, slow and dependent (Unsworth, McKee & Mulligan, 2001). Such stereotypes both delimit and channel people’s thoughts about, and responses to, older people. Researchers themselves are not immune to the blinkering effect of stereotypes, and therefore it is unsurprising that the dominant research paradigms operating in geriatrics and gerontology seek to chart the map of decline in later life, and classify older people in terms of the problems that they face. Older people are manifested in the literature through their ‘functional impairment’ or ‘functional performance’, their level of ‘dependency’ or their general ‘frailty’ (Jarrett et al., 1995; Rockwood et al., 1999; Woodhouse et al., 1988).