Older Widows and the Life Course

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Later-life widowhood is the expectation of most older wives, since statistically women live longer than men and tend to marry men older than themselves. Despite this there has been little coverage of the complexities of later-life widowhood. In this book Pat Chambers redresses this balance, combining an analysis of the literature that does exist with qualitative research amongst older widows. The research reveals a multi-faceted experience of later-life widowhood. Older widows life stories challenge the dominant public narrative of misery and decline, pointing instead to a complexity of experience which is rooted in personal biography and the female life course rather than in later-life widowhood itself. Chambers develops the concept of multiple narratives as a way of uncovering the complex, but often hidden lives of older widows. Without such an understanding, she argues, it is all too easy to subscribe to the powerfully dominant public narrative and thus to misinterpret older widows current needs and aspirations. This is an engaging and original study of a key topic for gerontological research and will be of great interest to sociologists and social policy scholars who study ageing and the life course.

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