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Rewriting midlife: Stories of women's health

Elayne M Puzan, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Midlife represents a complex developmental stage with long term implications for health and wellness. It is a time that holds special significance for the current generation of "baby boom" women who have been socialized by the events and circumstances of a unique historical period that differs substantially from that of previous generations. Despite its significance, a combination of gaps and distortions has made midlife an empty place in the life cycle, subject to myths and stereotypes that marginalize aging women and render them invisible. In large measure, a broad social discourse about midlife has been superseded by a narrow biomedical discourse about menopause. This study utilizes an innovative application of narrative inquiry, based on practical knowledge derived from everyday experience, to elicit a holistic, contemporary model of women's health at midlife. An integration of individual, reflective writing and collective story-telling in small group settings establishes connections and differences that encourage women to find their own voices and become the recognized experts of their own lives. The methodology is consistent with principles of participatory action research that promote individual emancipation and social change. Findings indicate that women seize upon midlife as a point of departure from the past, and attempt to reconstruct traditional beliefs and practices about work, family, and aging as well as their own health in ways that reflect their current reality. The concept of being "at risk" for certain diseases, as a consequence of possible genetic predisposition, appears as a central concern. Women particularly appreciate the relational aspects of the group process, which offers mutual support, shared knowledge, and validation of experience.

Subject Area

Nursing|Cellular biology|Womens studies|Public health

Recommended Citation

Puzan, Elayne M, "Rewriting midlife: Stories of women's health" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9809390.