From Old Woman to Older Women: Contemporary Culture and Women's Narratives
Sally Chivers provides a fascinating look at and challenge to how North American popular culture has portrayed old age as a time of disease, decline, and death. Within contemporary Canadian literary and film production, a tradition of articulate central older female characters challenges what the aging body has come to signify in a broader cultural context. Rather than seek positive images of aging, which can do their own prescriptive damage, the author focuses on constructive, depictions that provide a basis on which to create new stories and readings of growing old. This type of humanities approach to the study of aging promises neither to fixate on nor avoid consideration of the role of the body in the much broader process of getting older. The progression implied in the title from the solitary symbol of The Old Woman toward a community of older women, indicates not a move toward euphemism, but rather an increasing and necessary awareness of the social and cultural dimensions of aging.
"Espousing feminist goals, Sally Chivers dismisses the banality of the usual troubled old woman who lives alone or among unhappy family members, and in its place proposes the more cheerful vision of elderly women who confront old age by banding together in a community…She convincingly argues for the power of literary narratives to expand our intimate knowledge of old age. She concludes by recommending that elders should aspire to a life of mutual interdependence. If two or more old women live together, they may be able to provide each other with mutual support, assistance, and life-affirming friendship. We should all be so fortunate.”
Anne M. Wyatt Brown
Ageing & Society