James Muruthi
Courtney Reynolds
Narrative Gerontology
Studying aging by obtaining critical events as told by
and the older adult (Kenyon and Randall, 2001)
“I have read several of the stories and enjoyed them
because they paint such a nice, detailed picture of
the person. It gives you another angle as to who (the
residents are).”
Source: Enriching now with then: Connecting nursing home residents
and Staff through oral history by Mike Payne (2011)
Highlights personal meaning and perceptions
of social concepts
Transmits cultural values, beliefs, practices
and more
Important for gerontologists to conceptualize
their data to create inclusive theories
Individuals tell and live
their stories
Stories consist of facts and potentiality
(ability to change in different contexts)
Narratives are multidimensional and dynamic
Narratives do not provide absolute truths
Structure of committed or unique time.
Generic particularity, they all fall in some genre or
group (myths, legends, or folktales).
Individuals’ actions have reasons.
Empirical or rational evidence for actions.
Authenticated within a given context.
References in a narrative tend to be ambiguous.
Centrality of trouble – common theme; fixing
Stories’ importance, meaning, and relevance can be
Stories follow certain temporal order.
May lack structure
Tend to lack social content, social
action, and social interaction
May not be authentic representations
Examines age over periods of time
Emphasis on:
• structural processes
• time and timing/chronological age
• linked lives
• individual agency
Contextualizes a person’s life
Narrative Gerontology
Life Course
1. Humans simultaneously
tell and live stories
A. Provides one of the most
“authentic” measures of
the human experience.
Narrative Gerontology
2. All narratives consist of
facts and potentiality.
Life Course
B. Opportunity to explore
how events have
impacted the
development of older
Narrative Gerontology
3. Narratives are multidimensional.
◦ Structural
◦ Social
◦ Cultural
◦ Personal
Life Course Perspective
C. Aggregation of many
narratives may enable
researchers to find
structural and personal
Narrative Gerontology
4. Narratives do not
provide us with any
absolute truths. They
explain part of a larger
Life Course Perspective
D. No story, and, therefore,
no life is more or less
important than any other.
Development of a method beyond literature reviews
that allows researchers to compare and contrast
narrative data from multiple samples
Continued globalization of the field.
Encourage gerontologists to continue to embrace
narrative gerontology.
Before we take your questions, we’d like to give a special
thank you to:
 Dr. Jennifer Kinney, Miami University
 Dr. Robert Applebaum, Miami University
 Our classmates at Miami University
 All of you for joining us today!
Bruner, J. S. (1996). The Culture of Education. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.
Kenyon, G. M., Ruth, J., & Mader, W. (1999). Elements of a
Narrative Gerontology. In V. L. Bengston & K. Warner Schaie
Handbook of Theories of Aging (pp.40-58). New
York: Springer Publishing Company.
Randall, W. L., Kenyon, G. M., Kenyon, G. M., & Randall, W. L.
(2001). Ordinary wisdom: Biographical aging and the journey
of life. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Praeger.