Psychologists' constructions of old age – a discourse analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Friedler, Meirav 2012. Psychologists' constructions of old age – a discourse analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsFriedler, Meirav
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Objectives: The context of the increase in life expectancy and the demographic shift towards a more elderly population in the UK presents a number of challenges to society‟s perception of old age and to the likelihood of increasing demands upon health professionals and psychologists who work with the elderly. Existing studies have focused on the effectiveness of therapeutic endeavours with older people, yet have failed to discretely examine the constructs of old age among psychologists who work in the field. Given the prominence of the ageing population and the likelihood of an increase in demands for therapeutic interventions, the aim of the present study was to explore how psychologists discussed and constructed old age within the context of their therapeutic work with older people. The research questions focused on the way in which psychologist who have experienced working with older people talk about old age, the way they construct ideas of therapy with old people and how those constructs of age relate to wider cultural and social constructs of old age.
Method: Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with eight psychologists, who were aged between mid thirties to late fifties, all of whom had a minimum of two years experience working therapeutically with older people. The interview transcripts were analysed using the discursive analysis methods of Discursive Psychology and Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. The analysis focused on the way the psychologists used discursive resources when discussing old age and the implications of their subject positions in their therapeutic work with older people.
Results: The results identified a number of discourses of old age; old age as heterogeneous, old age as dichotomous, that the therapeutic intervention with older people can be seen as complex and challenging as well as a rewarding pursuit for the therapist, that the choice of the therapeutic model has implications itself and that old age can be seen as an internal attribute.
Discussion: The study demonstrated how constructions of old age influenced psychologists in terms of their expectations, their therapeutic delivery, their willingness to integrate a number of therapeutic models, and in their ability to set goals with their elderly clients. The clinical implications of the present study are discussed and the study concludes with recommendations suggesting additional training aiming at furthering psychological knowledge of old age and current theories of ageing.

Keywordsold age; discourse analysis
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Publication dates
Print04 Apr 2012
Publication process dates
Deposited04 Apr 2012
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