Macquarie University
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Active ageing and misrecognition: how older people in Australia perceive respect and how this is reflected in popular film

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posted on 2022-03-28, 01:50 authored by Lynette Ryan
A dispositive approach to critical discourse analysis of five films and a content analysis of fourteen interviews was undertaken. Results indicate that active ageing discourse fails to recognise older people’s agency and autonomy, and is a form of symbolic violence. Further, active ageing discourse is found to infantilise older people because it suggests that policy makers and researchers should explain to them what is appropriate behaviour as they age. Active ageing discourse suggests that older people are only ‘worthy’ of respect if they engage in work and exercise and is regarded as a lack of recognition. Honneth’s (1990) theory of recognition is used to define respect and the theory is applied to the social category of older age. Analysis of the films revealed that the protagonists were represented as being recognised chiefly in their intimate sphere. They were recognised in the work sphere in all the films except one movie, but they were only portrayed as being recognised in the legal sphere in two of the films. Analysis of the interviews showed that the respondents felt recognised at the micro and meso level of society. Australian legislation ensures that older people are recognised in the legal sphere, and in the work sphere. Conclusions drawn include changing the discourse from ‘active ageing’ to ‘a positive engagement in life’ thus removing blame and the fear of being regarded as ‘failures’. Further, discourse around ‘positive engagement with life’ would allow older people the choice to relax and enjoy leisure; or to engage in exercise for health benefits or to not engage in exercise, and to engage in work if they so desire or to not engage in work if that is what they want. Discourse about ‘a positive engagement with life’ would allow older people to exercise autonomy and agency and would recognise them as partaking in life.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1. Rethinking the discourse of older age -- Chapter 2. Comedy films -- Chapter 3. Fantasy films -- Chapter 4. Homogenisation of older age : respect for older people -- Chapter 5. Disrespect and active ageing -- Conclusion -- Bibliography.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 298-319

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Sociology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Justine Lloyd


Copyright Lynette Ryan 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource ([viii], 341 pages)

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