‘Old age’ and Ageism in Urban Research: The Case of Fear of Crime


A critique has recently been made of research and theory on ageing in spatial research, arguing for the development of approaches which are informed by critical theoretical perspectives. Perhaps the most significant of these is the recognition that ‘old age’ is culturally constructed. This paper illustrates the value of such an approach with reference to understanding of fear of crime. It is suggested that many difficulties with past research result from epistemological problems, including ageism. A number of assumptions about elderly people and crime can be contested if scrutiny is informed by humanistic, feminist and social constructionist perspectives. Drawing on in depth interviews with elderly people, some of the problems and prospects of work on old age are discussed. Age is only one dimension by which people situate themselves and are situated by others in relation to the risk of crime. Local contexts, life course experiences and other social identities are involved in the constitution of fear for each individual. While the role of ageing can be understood within a framework of power relations, its positive as well as negative impacts on reactions to crime require representation. Similar analysis could profitably be developed in other areas of urban research.