Nav: Home

Older men cling to 1950s, '60s blueprint of masculinity

October 19, 2016

As men age, they continue to follow dominant ideas of masculinity learned as youth, leaving them unequipped for the assaults of old age, according to a new study.

The mismatch between aging and the often ageless expectations of popular masculinity leaves senior men without a blueprint to behave or handle emotions, according to a new literature review from Case Western Reserve University.

Men who embodied the prevailing cultural and societal hallmarks of manliness as younger men--projecting an aura of toughness and independence, avoiding crying and vulnerability, while courageously taking risks--are confronted by the development of health problems, loss of spouses and loved ones, retirement and needing to be a caregiver for ailing family members in later life.

"Who you are in the past is embedded in you," said Kaitlyn Barnes Langendoerfer, a doctoral student in sociology at Case Western Reserve and co-author of the review, which mined narrative data from nearly 100 previously published studies. "Men have trouble dealing with older age because they've followed a masculinity script that left little room for them to negotiate unavoidable problems."

"In our study, we hear men struggling with grief--which is a vulnerable state--and caregiving, which is associated with femininity," she said. "If they must cry, men feel it's to be done in the home, away from others, even when spouse has died. They have to renegotiate their masculinity in order to deal with what life is bringing their way."

This masculinity "script" still embraced by older men was outlined as the four-part Blueprint of Manhood, first published by sociologist Robert Brannon when the men in the studies were entering adulthood in the 1970's. The blueprint included:

No Sissy Stuff - men are to avoid being feminine, show no weaknesses and hide intimate aspects of their lives.

The Big Wheel - men must gain and retain respect and power and are expected to seek success in all they do.

The Sturdy Oak - men are to be ''the strong, silent type" by projecting an air of confidence and remaining calm no matter what.

Give 'em Hell - men are to be tough, adventurous, never give up and live life on the edge.

"We're all aging; it's a fact of life. But as men age, they're unable to be who they were, and that creates a dissonance that is hard to reconcile," said Langendoerfer, who studies aging in men.

"We need to better understand how older men adapt to their stressors--high suicide rates, emotions they stifle, avoiding the doctor--to hopefully help them build better lives in older age," she said.

The review, published in the journal Men and Masculinities, was co-written by Edward Thompson Jr., an emeritus professor of sociology and anthropology at the College of the Holy Cross and now an affiliate of the Department of Sociology at Case Western Reserve.

Most of the data came from studies with white, middle-class men from the United States, Canada and Europe who had stable careers. "More research inclusive of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds is needed to obtain a more complete picture of how older men adapt," Langendoerfer said.
-end-


Case Western Reserve University

Related Aging Articles:

Brain development and aging
The brain is a complex organ -- a network of nerve cells, or neurons, producing thought, memory, action, and feeling.
Aging gracefully in the rainforest
In an article that appears in the current issue of Evolutionary Anthropology, researchers synthesize over 15 years of theoretical and empirical findings from long-term study of the Tsimane forager-farmers.
Reversing aging now possible!
DGIST's research team identified the mechanism of reversible recovery of aging cells by inducing lysosomal activation.
Brain-aging gene discovered
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have discovered a common genetic variant that greatly affects normal brain aging in older adults.
Aging can be good for you (if you're a yeast)
It's a cheering thought for anyone heading towards their golden years.
How eating less can slow the aging process
New research shows why calorie restriction made mice live longer and healthier lives.
Turning back the aging clock
By boosting genes that destroy defective mitochondrial DNA, researchers can slow down and potentially reverse an important part of the aging process.
Insilico Medicine launches a deep learned biomarker of aging, Aging.AI 2.0 for testing
Insilico Medicine, Inc., a company applying latest advances in deep learning to biomarker development, drug discovery and aging research, launched Aging.AI 2.0.
Substance with the potential to postpone aging
The coenzyme NAD+ plays a main role in aging processes.
What does a healthy aging cat look like?
Just as improved diet and medical care have resulted in increased life expectancy in humans, advances in nutrition and veterinary care have increased the life span of pet cats.

Related Aging Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Moving Forward
When the life you've built slips out of your grasp, you're often told it's best to move on. But is that true? Instead of forgetting the past, TED speakers describe how we can move forward with it. Guests include writers Nora McInerny and Suleika Jaouad, and human rights advocate Lindy Lou Isonhood.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...