Beyond the mask: Women’s experiences of public and private ageing during midlife and their use of age-resisting activities

K. Ballard, M.A. Elston, Jonathan Gabe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Accounts of ageing often employ the metaphor of a mask and suggest that individuals are motivated to present a youthful image. Drawing on interview data, we reveal that women aged 51-57 years distinguish between what we call ‘public’ and ‘private’ body ageing, both of which have an impact on age-resistance. Public ageing is visible, arising from physical changes in body appearance. These changes have the potential for concealment through age-resisting activities. Private ageing is less visible and arises largely from physiological changes within the body, which were perceived by women as irreversible indicators of ageing. This obduracy of the body led women to perceive themselves as ageing and also deterred them from participating in age-resistance. In contrast to masking theories, our study shows that most women in their 50s wanted to project a socially acceptable image that reflected their subjective sense of growing old.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)169-187
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

    Cite this