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Body and self: a phenomenological study on the ageing body and identity
  1. J Bullington
  1. Correspondence to:
 Jennifer Bullington
 Associate Professor, Ersta & Sköndal University College, PO Box 4619, SE – 116 91 Stockholm, Sweden; Jennifer.Bullington{at}euc.ersta.se; Jennifer.Bullington{at}comhem.se

Abstract

The aim of the study was to investigate how older people (60+) experience the ageing body and how these experiences affect aged peoples’ sense of identity. Explorative, open ended, interviews were conducted with 13 respondents between the ages of 63 and 82, recruited from a retired peoples’ organisation, Church organisations, and from the working population. The qualitative data was analysed with a phenomenological method, the so called EPP method, the empirical phenomenological psychological method. The results showed that generally the experience of the ageing body has to do with a changed life world, reactions to this change in terms of body and self, and finding ways to feel at home in this changed situation. Results are presented as three typologies, reflecting the different ways in which the respondents described this general experience: existential awakening, making it good enough, and new possibilities. The results give support to the research that points out the importance of activity for the self esteem of the elderly. According to this study, however, the meaning of “activity” can vary and can have different sources of motivation. Respondents in only one typology expressed frustration over limitations of the ageing body. Respondents exhibited entirely different ways of relating to the fact that death was approaching, which raises questions about how the elderly experience this impending horizon. Finally, the gender differences in this small study were quite clear: all the male respondents belonged to the typology “New possibilities”, raising questions about gender aspects concerning the meaning of freedom, appearance, activity, and self esteem.

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