Men and ageing
Traditionally, psychological research on ageing has been conducted from a reductionist, biomedical model, assuming that illness, disability and emotional distress are inevitable consequences of the biological processes of ageing within the individual. It tends to focus on the problems associated with ageing rather than on the circumstances under which people may be described as 'ageing well', to ignore the social conditions and cultural stereotypes that may contribute to dysfunction and distress in older people, and to assume that gender is irrelevant in old age.
Negative stereotypes about ageing lead to stigmatization of older people and neglect of issues concerning them. Researchers, service providers and policy-makers frequently have an inaccurate understanding of old age, assuming that the majority of older people are frail, cognitively impaired, and uninterested in contemporary social issues; thus, services are often less than appropriate (Fennell et al. 1988). Older people are assumed to be a problem group and a burden on the community. The view that they may be successful survivors of life's vicissitudes, with a range of interesting experiences, potentially valuable insights, and coping strategies from which others can benefit, is not widespread, either in the research community or in society more generally (Wells and Freer 1988) and has until relatively recently been almost completely ignored in psychological research on ageing.
The extent of variation in health and well-being within an age cohort tends to increase with age. The young-old, up to around 70 or 75, frequently continue in good health and maintain active involvement with family and community, although as they age a growing minority does demonstrate increasing levels of disability. While the proportion in poor health or with significant disabilities certainly increases with age, the majority are not radically different from middle-aged adults in health, functioning and psychological well-being. It is the old-old (over 75) who have the