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To what extent do ethnic & cultural diversity influence women’s experiences of growing older?

By Sharon Wray

Abstract

Although women predominate in later life, their diverse experiences of growing older have often been neglected within social gerontology and the sociology of ageing. Instead, the significance of gender and ethnicity and the interrelationship of sexism, racism and ageism, remain under theorised. More recently, some feminists have highlighted the neglect of gender issues and have examined how gendered power relations in society influence women’s experiences of growing older (e.g. Arber & Ginn, 1991, 1995). This has provided insight into why older women are often significantly materially disadvantaged in comparison to men. Additionally how, despite the inequalities they face across the life course, older women are far from being passive victims. However, although feminist scholarship has made older women’s accounts more visible, how these are influenced by ethnic and cultural diversity and the experience of migration remains neglected. Even the concepts used to understand experiences of ageing tend to be western centric and are often applied universally as though they are unchanged by culture. For example, there is a tendency to assume that what it means to age ‘successfully’, and the underlying concepts attached to it such as independence, agency, empowerment, disempowerment and autonomy, will not vary amongst and between ethnic groups. A potential effect of this is the exclusion of those accounts that offer alternative insights into the experience of ageing. In this paper, the accounts of ethnically diverse midlife and older women will be drawn upon to highlight different perceptions and experiences of later life. It will be argued that theories of ageing have to be sensitive to those different voices that construct and make sense of growing olde

Topics: HT, H1
Publisher: The Age Institute
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:4734

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