Language, Society and the Elderly is the first concerted attempt to give a social account of language and interaction in later life. The book gives a detailed critique of the cognitive bias of existing studies of elderly people's language. In its place, the authors propose a socially-based approach which explains how older people's life circumstances, concerns, goals and beliefs influence their styles of interaction. But social stereotypes of old age and a generally ageist social climate limit the roles available to elderly people. In detailed analyses of talk between elderly people and younger adults, the authors show how age and health identifies are negotiated. They look particularly at sequences of troubles-telling and moments of painful self-disclosure by elderly people, examining how even "supportive" talk to the elderly can threaten identity and reinforce social divisions. "Language, Society and the Elderly" opens up an entirely new field for sociolinguistics. It also shows how studies of language and interaction can contribute to theory in social gerontology, and to policy and practice in medical and caring contexts.
Language and later life - incipient literatures; discourse, accommodation and intergenerational relations; formulating age - discursive dimensions of age-identity; "my life in your hands" - processes of intergenerational self-disclosure; troubles-telling, facework and age-identity; telling age in later life - a strategic analysis; intergenerational talk - consonance or conflict?; sociolingiuistics and gerontology - applied concerns.