Experiences of age and gender: narratives of progress and decline

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2009


This article examines experiences of chronological age. Using data from the British Household Panel Survey, we analyze both qualitatively and quantitatively verbatim responses from 8177 respondents aged 16 and over concerning the (dis)advantages of their age. Two main questions are tested: 1) Is the cultural narrative of age decline supported by the experiences of our respondents? 2) Are age experiences differentiated by gender? We find people's age experiences are multidimensional and multidirectional, incorporating narratives of progress and decline. Our data show marked gender differences in age experiences, but give little support to claims of a double standard concerning the aging body. More generally, we find that people contrast current experiences with their younger and older selves. We argue that future conceptual developments need to take seriously both a synchronic and diachronic understanding of age, highlighting not just the present but also the distinctive historical development of individuals across time.

Published in

International Journal of Aging and Human Development


Volume: 69 (2):133-158



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