Resisting decline? Narratives of independence among aging limbless veterans

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‘Maintaining independence’ is a core project for many older people; a project which has received critical attention within aging studies. In this paper, we extend the critique by exploring how aging intersects with disability and militarism as additional critical subjectivities. The empirical focus of the paper is the narratives of older military veterans who had lost a limb either during or post-service. Data reveal the long legacy of military experience in the lives of these veterans; a legacy which is manifested in both negative and positive outcomes. A dominant narrative of ‘struggling against decline’ is identified, while ‘minimization’, ‘victimhood’, and ‘life-as-normal’ emerged as further narrative types through which veterans articulated their experiences of aging with limb loss. Findings from this study highlight both resilience and vulnerability as features of older veterans' experiences of aging with limb loss. Building on previous critiques, we add further nuance to understandings of how older people might respond to the narrative of decline, and illustrate multiple possible meanings of claims to ‘normality’. By sharing the stories of older limbless veterans, we aim to contribute to – and connect – several fields of study including aging studies, critical disability studies, and critical military studies. Findings are discussed in light of current trends in each of these fields.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-31
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
Early online date22 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


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