Age as a chronological marker is of central importance in our society. The question ‘how old are you?’ is a primary reference point for thinking about ourselves and others. We assume that the answer will enable us to identify, categorize and classify someone in terms of their likely physical health, the nature of their experiences, their eligibility for services, the extent to which their behaviour and social capacities are ‘normal’ and so on. Age then, matters because it carries the assumption that ageing follows a typical and predictable course and a course to which labels such as ‘child’, ‘adolescent’, ‘old person’ can be applied. Around these categories, our beliefs and social practices are constructed and organized (Witkin 2000). Age, as Kunkel (2003: 131) points out, serves often as a proxy for a stage or transition in the life course, in particular, however, as a proxy for identifying increased risk of health problems.
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