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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Gerontological knowledge and its role in the social production of agedness Auger, Jeanette A.


Accepting the point of view put forward by those sociologists working within the framework known as the social construction of reality, the thesis attempts to describe and analyze the social production of the phenomenon of old age. Specifically, it attempts to examine the production of gerontologists — those who study and research aging as an occupation. It posits such constructions against views expressed by those considered "old." Ethnographic techniques of data collection, responses to questionnaires, audio tapes and a textual analysis of written documents, gathered over a six year period in a variety of social settings, provided materials which display that notions of aging are differentially constructed by gerontologists and the old. An interactive approach to aging is suggested in which the lives and experiences of the old become data for inquiry. The ideological base of gerontology is explored and the notion of "helping" the old is seen as an underlying organizational facet. How it is invoked as a resource to legitimize certain gerontological activities is described, analyzed, and compared with older persons' perceptions of themselves as being helped. The thesis argues that if gerontologists wish to help the aged through their research, consultative, teaching, and other activities, they are not succeeding in the most appropriate manner according to some older informants. The theories of gerontology are examined as examples of some of the ideological foci put forward by its practitioners. They are found to be lacking in both theoretical and practical aspects. The thesis concludes with a chapter on strategies for an appropriate gerontology using the contributions and criticisms of older persons and gerontologists. Recommendations are made as to how to render this field of inquiry more reflexive and useful to the old as service receivers as well as to members of the social sciences.

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