Reflections on Age and Identity

(Citation: Barusch, A.S. (2009). Reflections on age and identity. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 52(4), 333-335.)

My father turns 85 this month and, when I ask how he is, the invariable response is “old.” This gives me pause. “How,” I ask, “does it feel to be old these days?”

Bernice Neugarten called age “an empty variable” (1977; 633) suggesting, along with Paul Baltes and others (1977) that chronological age has little explanatory or predictive value apart from the biological, psychological and social events that go with it. Culture seems to trump, defining the combination of markers that lead us to accept the “old” appellation (see Kaufman, 1981). Of course, G.H. Mead would remind us that individuals are not passive recipients of cultural dictums. Rather, we actively construct our identities, interpreting norms and events according to our inclinations, habits, and proclivities.

So why now, after 85 years, has my father embraced this “old” identity? Read more . . .

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