Keeping it in the family: narrative maps of ageing and young athletes' perceptions of their futures

Cassandra Phoenix, Andrew C. Sparkes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (SciVal)


Drawing upon interviews with 22 young athletes aged on average 20 years, this article examines the ways in which they used observations of the ageing and old age of their family members to shape the ways in which they anticipated the ageing of their own bodies. The representations of the bodies, roles and life- styles of their parents and grandparents provided ‘narrative maps’ that held pre-presentations of the young athletes’ possible futures. They included both preferred and feared scenarios about middle age and old age, particularly the opportunities they would have for maintaining physical activity and the appear- ance of their bodies. The young men’s and the young women’s narrative maps differed: the women’s accounts of old age gave more prominence to the loss of appearance, while the men’s focused more on the loss of control and indepen- dence. The informants were highly sensitised to the biological dimensions of ageing which, for them, meant the inevitable decline of the material body, especially in performance terms, and both genders recognised social dimensions, particularly that responsibilities to jobs and family would constrain the time available for exercise. To understand more fully young athletes’ experiences of self-ageing, and the family as a key arena for the embodied projection and inscription of ageing narratives, further research is required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number04
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • inter-generational family relationships, narrative maps, possible selves, gender, body, young athletes, self-ageing.


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