Examining how gender and age interact across the life course to influence wellbeing in old age: A case study of Uganda

Authors: Andrea Rishworth*, University of Waterloo, Susan Elliott, University of Waterloo
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Africa
Keywords: aging, gender, place, life course, wellbeing, Uganda
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Roosevelt 7, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Aging and gender are prominent themes in international discussions. Yet, these discussions often center on inequalities in the social determinants of health that disadvantage older women, implying they are universally more vulnerable than older men. Discussions on the links between gender and aging ignore the possibility that gender inequalities may vary over space and time. With older people becoming a larger share of the global population, we problematize how gender and age interact across the life course to shape wellbeing in old age. Drawing on feminist life course perspectives, interviews with elderly men, elderly women (n=40) and key informants (KI) (n=25) were conducted in Uganda to examine perceptions of aging, life course experiences and wellbeing in old age. Clear gender differences in the perceptions and experiences of aging influenced wellbeing, positively and negatively, in old age. Perceptions of men and women’s aging diverged. Some indicated women aged faster due to menstruation, birth, unequal divisions of labour, and patriarchal gender structures while others indicated men aged faster due to ‘harder work’, manual labour, and stress. Women and men’s different life course experiences, within and outside the home, configured positive and negative wellbeing experiences in old age. KIs indicated a policy disconnect in the priorities of governments and NGOs to focus solely on women and neglect men, highlighting both had their own challenges. Overall, international discussions should move beyond assumptions of universal gender inequality among older women to examine the experiences of both older men and women in the contexts they reside.

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