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Experiences in Old Age: A South Indian Example of how Functional Age is Socially Structured

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  • Penny Vera-Sanso
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    Research on chronologically older people approaches “the old” as a category of people sharing common problems and experiences that are rooted in the functional disparities between old and younger people. These functional disparities are seen as impinging on social and economic positioning, leading to asymmetries in dependence and vulnerability. The argument here is that, rather than simply being an objective functional condition, old age is a deeply contested, socially structured condition precisely because the definition of “old” does not merely denote diverging abilities, but confers differential needs, rights and obligations on both the “old” and on younger people. Drawing on research in rural and urban South India, the article illustrates how definitions of “old age” are shaped by class position within local economies. These definitions pattern older people's access to work and, consequently, not only the extent to which people can remain self-supporting in old age, but also the degree to which younger people expect downward resource flows.

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    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Oxford Development Studies.

    Volume (Year): 34 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 4 ()
    Pages: 457-472

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:34:y:2006:i:4:p:457-472
    DOI: 10.1080/13600810601045817
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