Men who 'made it': men's stories of ageing well

Gravill, N. 2014. Men who 'made it': men's stories of ageing well. PhD thesis University of Westminster Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities

TitleMen who 'made it': men's stories of ageing well
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsGravill, N.

Dominant discourses in much academic literature and society more widely tend to depict men as destructive, both towards themselves and others (Mac an Ghail, 2012). Men are commonly presented as valorising hegemonic constructions of masculinity that are in turn understood as negatively impacting on men’s wellbeing. For example, masculine values of self-sufficiency are considered to limit men’s capacity to ask for help (Addis and Mahalik, 2003), or to develop more satisfying relationships (Burn and Ward, 2005).

However, masculinities are diverse and complex with significant variation found across a range of contexts (Connell, 1995). While a new wave of literature has begun to highlight the positive ways in which men may engage with hegemonic forms of masculinity, there is a lack of understanding of how these positive forms may be experienced in the context of ageing and the life course. Thus the current study seeks to further understandings in this area.

This study focuses on men who self-selected as ‘ageing successfully’. 40 older men aged between 50-90, split between Australia and Britain, were recruited using a maximum variation sampling approach. In-depth narrative interviews were carried out and analysed using Thematic Analysis (TA), as outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006; 2013). Analytical themes that emerged from men’s narratives related to their experiences of struggle, coping, identity construction, and hegemony in the context of ageing and the life course. Successfully navigating their relationship to control over the life course was particularly significant to men’s experiences of ageing well.

Thus the findings suggest that older men show awareness around their own wellbeing and are indeed able and willing to find positive ways to act constructively, frequently underpinned by hegemonic forms of masculinity. In the current study men’s constructive behaviours were generally experienced through ‘legitimate’ opportunities, that is, in ways that did not tend to challenge dominant forms of masculinity. Additionally, a minority of men could experience positive wellbeing by resisting hegemony e.g. through expressing a greater identification with and preference for female rather than male friendship during youth. Finally, the cross cultural nature of the current research makes an original contribution by suggesting ways in which Australian and British men’s experiences of successful ageing and wellbeing may be influenced by class and cultural issues.

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