Skip to main content Accessibility help

No place for old women: a critical inquiry into age in later working life


Western countries currently face pressing demands to transform the labour market participation of older workers, in order to address the pressing economic and social challenges of an ageing population. However, in this article we argue that our understanding of older workers is limited by a dominant discourse that emphasises individuals rather than organisations; and valorises youth as the performative aspiration for all workers, regardless of age. To see things differently, and to see different things, we offer a novel analytical synthesis that combines insights from post-foundational feminist theory, the 2007 film No Country for Old Men and an empirical study of older nurses working in the Norwegian public health-care system. Our aim is to provide the foundations for alternative interventions in the world of work that might underpin a more sustainable future for older workers.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Ann Therese Lotherington, UiT the Arctic University of Norway, P.O. Box 6050 Langnes, 9037 Tromsø, Norway E-mail:
Hide All
Acker, J. 1990. Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: a theory of gendered organizations. Gender and Society, 4, 2, 139–58.
Ainsworth, S. and Hardy, C. 2008. The enterprising self: an unsuitable job for an older worker. Organization, 15, 3, 389405.
Alvesson, M. and Skjöldberg, K. 2009. Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas for Qualitative Research. Sage, London.
Berg, M. and Mol, A. (eds) 1998. Differences in Medicine. Unravelling Practices, Techniques and Bodies. Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina.
Biggs, S. 2004. Age, gender, narratives and masquerades. Journal of Aging Studies, 18, 1, 4558.
Blog 2008. No Country for Old Men: A Somewhat Complete Analysis. Available online at [Accessed 12 January 2015].
Borghans, L. and Weel, B. T. 2002. Do Older Workers Have More Trouble Using a Computer Than Younger Workers? ROA-RM-2002/1E, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market, University of Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Brannen, J. and Nilsen, A. 2013. Methodological approaches, practices and reflections. In Nilsen, A., Brannen, J. and Lewis, S. (eds), Transitions to Parenthood in Europe. Policy Press, Bristol, UK, 2740.
Busch, T., Johnsen, E., Klausen, K. K. and Vanebo, J. O. 2011. Modernisering av offentlig sektor. Trender, ideen og praksiser. Universitetsforlaget, Oslo.
Butler, J. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge, New York.
Chatrakul Na Ayudhya, U., Smithson, J. and Lewis, S. 2014. Focus group methodology in a life course approach – individual accounts within a peer cohort group. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17, 2, 157–71.
Duncan, C. and Loretto, W. 2004. Never the right age? Gender and age-based discrimination in employment. Gender, Work and Organization, 11, 1, 97115.
Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H., Bastow, S. and Tinkler, J. 2006. Digital Era Governance: IT Corporations, the State and E-Government. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Featherstone, M. and Hepworth, M. 1991. The mask of ageing and the postmodern lifecourse. In Featherstone, M., Hepworth, M. and Turner, B. (eds), The Body: Social Processes and Cultural Theory. Sage, London, 371389.
Foucault, M. 1972. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Tavistock, New York.
Friedberg, L. 2003. The impact of technological change on older workers: evidence from data on computer use. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 56, 3, 511–29.
Halford, S., Kukarenko, N., Lotherington, A. T. and Obstfelder, A. 2015. Technical change and the un/troubling of gendered ageing in healthcare work. Gender, Work and Organization, 22, 5, 495509.
Halford, S., Lotherington, A. T., Dyb, K. and Obstfelder, A. 2010. Un/doing gender with ICT? NORA: Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 18, 1, 2037.
Halford, S., Obstfelder, A. and Lotherington, A. T. 2009. Beyond implementation and resistance: how the delivery of ICT policy is reshaping healthcare. Policy and Politics, 37, 1, 113–28.
Haraway, D. 1991. Situated knowledges. The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. In Haraway, D. (ed.), Simians, Cyborgs and Women. The Reinvention of Nature. Free Association Books, London, 183201.
Haraway, D. 1996. Modest witness: feminist diffractions in science studies. In Galison, P. and Stump, D. J. (eds), The Disunity of Science, Boundaries, Contexts, and Power. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 428–45.
Haraway, D. 1997. Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium. FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse. Routledge, London.
Haraway, D. 2004. The Haraway Reader. Routledge, London.
Holweg, M. 2007. The genealogy of lean production. Journal of Operations Management, 25, 2, 420–37.
Krekula, C. 2007. The intersection of age and gender. Reworking gender theory and social gerontology. Current Sociology, 55, 2, 155–71.
Law, J. and Singleton, V. 2012. ANT and Politics: Working in and on the World. URL: [Accessed 25 January 2016].
Loretto, W., Vickerstaff, S. and White, P. 2009. The Future for Older Workers. Policy Press, Bristol, UK.
Lotherington, A. T. and Obstfelder, A. 2014. ‘Du må være ung for å henge med i dag!’ Inkluderings- og ekskluderingsmekanismer på det høyteknologiske sykehuset. Søkelys på arbeidslivet, 31, 1/2, 118–35.
Mol, A. 2002. The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice. Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina.
Mol, A. 2008. The Logic of Care. Health and the Problem of Patient Choice. Routledge, London.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2013. Ageing and Employment Policies: Norway 2013: Working Better with Age. OECD Publishing, Paris.
Posthuma, R. A. and Campion, M. A. 2009. Age stereotypes in the workplace: common stereotypes, moderators, and future research directions. Journal of Management, 35, 1, 158–88.
Riach, K. and Kelly, S. 2015. The need for fresh blood: understanding organizational age inequality through a vampiric lens. Organization, 22, 3, 287305.
Rodriguez, K., Schwartz, J., Lahman, M. and Geist, M. 2011. Culturally responsive focus groups: reframing the research experience to focus on participants. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 10, 4, 400–17.
Thomas, R., Hardy, C., Cutcher, L. and Ainsworth, S. 2014. What's age got to do with it? On the critical analysis of age and organizations. Organization Studies, 35, 11, 1569–84.
Trethway, A. 1999. Disciplined bodies: women's embodied identities. Organization Studies, 20, 3, 423–50.
Sandelowski, M. 2000. Desires and Devices: Gender, Technology and American Nursing. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Sennett, R. 2008. The Craftsman. Penguin Books, London.
Strangleman, T. 2009. The Remembrance to a Lost Work: Nostalgia, Labour and the Visual. Available online at [Accessed 12 January 2015].
Wajcman, J. 2004. TechnoFeminism. Polity Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Warr, D. 2005. ‘It was fun … but we don't usually talk about these things’: analyzing sociable interaction in focus groups. Qualitative Inquiry, 11, 2, 200–25.
Wilkinson, S. 1999. Focus groups: a feminist method. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 2, 221–44.
World Health Organization 2002. Active Ageing. A Policy Framework. WHO/NMH/NPH/02.8, World Health Organization, Geneva.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed