The article deals with poverty in old age, which the author studies through the concept of social roles or social status. She analyses data from a qualitative empirical study in order to understand how various aspects of poverty in old age and the status of being poor impact seniors’ performance of social roles. The author approaches poverty and old age as stigmas and looks at the ways in which seniors living in poverty defend their identity against inferior status. The article explains how the role of a poor senior is performed, whether and how poverty affects the roles that poor seniors share with other seniors, and whether the ascriptive status of old age or the objectively low social status of poverty is more significant for the performance of their role. Drawing on the results of her analysis the author describes poverty as the ‘master status’: poverty is an undesirable status for seniors and strategies for defending their identity against the stigma of poverty pushes the strategies of defence against the stigma of old age into the background. The author argues that setting old age in the context of poverty reveals the limitations of some theories in the fi eld socio-gerontology.
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