Backs to the future? Reflections on women, ageing and nursing


  • Miriam Bernard BA PhD Cert in Counselling

    1. Reader and Gerontology Course Director, Department of Applied Social Studies, Keele University, Keele, Staffs ST5 5BG, England
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There is now a certain amount of evidence to support the contention that ageism is not only rife amongst the population at large, but also amongst many of those who care for older people in a professional capacity. Given that many of these professionals are women caring for other women — and nursing is a prime example — this should at the very least give us serious cause for concern. This paper explores the relationship between ‘ageing women’ and ‘old women’ from the point of view of personal and professional attitudes and practices. It examines the proposition that until we, as women, fully explore and understand our own attitudes towards ageing and old age, we cannot work in ways which are truly beneficial and empowering for the older women in our care. The purpose of the paper is threefold. First, it reviews what is a relatively limited body of literature and research on this topic. Second, it reports on the preliminary findings from an exploratory study examining the attitudes of female nurses to their own ageing. Finally, it reflects further on the issues raised and considers some of the ways in which we can begin to address and confront the challenges which being ‘ageing women’ and ‘aged women’ in late 20th century Britain presents.