ERIC Number: ED230882
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1982-Nov-22
I Am What I Am: Age and Identity in the Community.
Eisenhandler, Susan A.
Despite the fact that most elders live their lives in the community, much of what is known about identity in old age is derived from studies of unique groups of elders. Turner proposed that identity is anchored in social order through the individual's adherence to either an institutional or an impulsive basis for action, and through the immediate location of identity in either the person or his/her role. To test this concept, open-ended interviews were conducted with 50 older people in a small community. When asked what it is like to be a specific chronological age, 21 respondents indicated that they did not see their age as distinguishable from other ages. However, for 26 respondents age was viewed as having particular meaning; 18 expressed ambivalent meaning, 5 expressed positive meaning, and 3 expressed negative meaning. Most elders seemed to be saying, "As far as age goes, I am what I am." The results offer evidence that age and old age are not necessarily mainstays of identity to elders who live in the community, although most recognize and enact roles associated with old age, e.g., as retirees or grandparents. A shift in chronological age and a definition of old as deleterious do not appreciably alter the sense of identity. (Author/JAC)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society (35th, Boston, MA, November 19-23, 1982).