Hopes, Fears and Expectations about the Future: What do Older People’s Stories Tell Us about Active Ageing?

Amanda Clarke, Lorna Warren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)


‘Active ageing’ is a key concept in current policy and research on ageing and yet
is under-analysed or interpreted largely within an economic framework. This paper explores active ageing in the broader context of older people’s lives. Drawing on a series of biographical interviews with 23 people aged 60–96 years,
the discussion focuses on the theme of future hopes and concerns. Exhortations
for ‘ active ageing’ may be challenged by a lifelong unwillingness to look forward
or plan ahead. Nevertheless, the findings show that fears for a future of limited
resources, decline and dependency can exist alongside not only the desire to live
longer but also the positive anticipation of forthcoming events and strong intergenerational relations. ‘Living for now’ and ‘taking a day at a time’ – and by extension
the accomplishment of everyday activities rather than the activity-driven
goals of earlier years – are common strategies for dealing with the unpredictability
of later life. In this respect, even stopping paid work and entering residential care
may be actively chosen and empowering even though they are steps towards
disengagement and dependency. Similarly, planning for death, such as writing
(living) wills and making funeral arrangements, may be positive and proactive
responses to beliefs and concerns about dying. ‘Active ageing’ therefore needs to
offer choices for life to be lived at all stages whilst recognising that much of the
focus for older people is on ordinary needs, deeds and relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-488
JournalAgeing and Society
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


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