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Governing the ageing body: explicating the negotiation of ‘positive’ ageing in daily life

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 May 2018

Department of Women's Studies and Feminist Research, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.
School of Occupational Therapy, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.
School of Occupational Therapy, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Address for correspondence: Rachael Pack, Department of Women's Studies and Feminist Research, University of Western Ontario, Lawson Hall, Room 3241, London, ON, Canada N6A 3K7 E-mail:


Positive ageing discourses have proliferated in Western nations, forming key aspects of structured mandates for how to think about, and act towards, ageing bodies. As interpretive resources, positive ageing discourses shape how adults growing older think about themselves, their bodies and the bodies of others in relation to the process of ageing and the imperative to ‘age well’. Informed by governmentality, this paper considers how positive ageing discourses function as technologies of government to inform and direct conduct. Drawing on in-depth narrative data, this analysis traces how ageing citizens take up and negotiate positive ageing discourses in their everyday lives, drawing attention to the intensive work, inexorable focus on the body and numerous resources that the enactment of positive ageing requires. Specifically, this analysis illuminates the interplay between the lived experiences of ageing and the socio-culturally structured mandates that shape how ageing and ageing bodies are conceptualised and approached, and draws attention to the moments of tension that arise out of such interplay. We suggest that these moments of tension highlight how the bodywork practices that older adults rigorously and continuously engage in are not so much directed towards the pursuit of ageless ageing, but rather are a response to the inescapable threat of dependency, decline and loss of agency, and thus operate to affirm ageist underpinnings of positive ageing discourses.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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