Narrative Configurations of Ageing and Time

Ageing and time are interconnected because ageing is basically living seen in a temporal perspective; especially as living after having already lived for a relatively long time. This makes “time” an important concept in trying to explain ageing. Usually, the connection between “ageing” and “time” is sought – or supposed to be found – in the concept of “age.” Unfortunately, “age” is used in confusingly different ways: “as we age,” “his age,” “the Stone Age,” “old age” or “weary with age.” “Time” does not offer much more clarity: “acceleration time,” “Caesar’s time,” “time will tell,” “time destroys all,” “time of birth” or “time since birth.” To clarify some of these confusions, different dimensions of “time” and ambiguities of “ageing” will be distinguished in this chapter. A major problem appears to be that chronometric time and lived time are both necessary to understand human ageing, but that these approaches tend to exclude or occlude each other. Narrative time is introduced as a way to interrelate these two temporal perspectives, to make it possible to develop and share meaningful accounts of our temporal human condition and to acknowledge the diversity of contexts in which human ageing takes place.

(from Cultural Histories of Ageing: Plots, Myths and Metaphors of the Senescent Self. Margery Vibe Skagen (ed). Routledge 2021, pp. 21-41, 2021)

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