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The fourth age remains a poorly understood phenomenon and there is a lack of understanding of the perceptions of those who might be considered to be living in it. This article draws on findings from a study of dignity in later life which examined the day-to-day experiences of participants who were in need of support and care because of failing health. It discusses their accounts of the changes to their sense of self and their identity that came about as a result of their ageing and health problems and looks also at the ways in which the support and care they received helped to shape their adjustment to those changes. The accounts given by participants reveal a great deal about the physical, mental and emotional effort entailed in maintaining a sense of self and highlight the essential role played by social relationships in the maintenance of identity. These findings are analysed by reference to emerging theories of the fourth age.
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1/10/15 → 30/09/17