About This Book

This edited volume shows that having plans and projects, being involved in life is possible after 80, as well as for oldest old people with disabilities. A large empirical literature documents that a sense of purpose in life is associated with reduced risk in relation to numerous diseases and even to delayed mortality. Playing an active role until the end of life, also in spite of some forms of disability, is very important for the oldest old people in order to maintain their physical and mental health.  The book proposes a radical change in perspective, fighting the prevalent ageist culture that tends to relegate the oldest old to isolation, irrelevance and decay. The book is structured in two parts. The first part presents key issues and concepts for the understanding of the condition of the oldest old people, such as ageism, the specific advantages and difficulties of oldest old people living in rural areas, and the relevance of transportation for the effective inclusion of oldest old adults. Moreover the bearing of new imagery on ageing created by literature is presented and discussed. In the second part, the actual involvement of oldest old people in various activities is documented through constructivist perspectives. Qualitative studies (discourse analysis, participatory research, case studies, content analysis) describe oldest old adults’ involvement in meaningful and worthwhile activities such as art, dance, cultural initiatives, work and volunteering that make them feel happy, worthy, connected, and full of life. The studies highlight the effects that such participation has on their lives, well-being and health, the difficulties they find in participating and what favours their inclusion. Combating widespread ageist attitudes at interactional and institutional level, studies in this edited volume shift the focus from loss and decay to adaptability, involvement, inner strength, resilience, and wisdom of oldest old adults. This is not an attempt to negate the reality of many oldest old people who need help, but to create a cultural space that helps oldest old adults to live fully, when conditions for their meaningful participation are actually met. The book aims to contribute to constructing a new cultural imagery for ageing, showing how some oldest old adults manage to live fully this part of life, despite the prevalent ageist culture and the limitations brought about by ageing. The book is focused on age discrimination, understood above all as a cultural and societal problem. The issue is not how the oldest old people have to change in order to have better ageing, at least not only. The main issue is how society has to change in older to include fully the oldest old people who are increasing at a very fast pace. This book intends to contribute to a cultural revolution: combating ageism and reinventing new meanings for ageing.