Health and illness: representations of physically active older women

Renata Frazão Matsuo, Marilia Velardi, Fabiano Marques Camara, Maria Luiza de Jesus Miranda


For a long time, old age was almost exclusively understood as a life period related to the increase of disease occurrence and functional disability. However, a successful aging process has been proposed by recognized psychological theories, presenting opportunities for continual optimization of human development, far beyond levels of morbidity. Nevertheless, there is a lack of evidence about the elderly’s beliefs and concepts regarding the experience of aging, health and disease. Therefore, the present investigation aims to explore elderly’s representations about health and illness, based on the principles of qualitative epistemology proposed by González Rey. Six elderly women, who participated in the Project Seniors for an Active Life (developed at Universidade São Judas Tadeu) were chosen for data collection. The study demonstrated that feeling healthy appears to be linked to autonomy in performing social roles and the possibility of achieving life goals, while illness appears to be linked to “being old”. Subjectification of old age, health and illness results in the denial of ageing. For the elderly women subject of the study the value given to physical activity as means to improve health is clear. But it is important to highlight that this value has not always been part of their lives: some had it from childhood, others since adulthood and some as a result of the Seniors for an Active Life project.


Ageing; Physical Education; Health; Subjectivity

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