Failing Bodies: Body Image and Multiple Chronic Conditions in Later Life
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There is a rich qualitative tradition of examining the lived experience of singular chronic conditions as well as the relationship between illness and identity in chronic disease. There has been little exploration of the experience of multiple chronic conditions or how these health issues may influence body image in later life. Building on the extant research and providing an alternative lens for understanding the experience of health issues, this article examines the body images of older adults with five or more chronic conditions. We use data from in-depth interviews with 10 men and 10 women aged 68 to 88 to analyze how older adults perceive their bodies to be failing in terms of their appearances, functional abilities, and impending mortality. We discuss how the participants view their bodies as both aesthetic and instrumental entities and how gender norms and discourses of successful aging and healthism shape their body evaluations.
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