How Ageing and Quality of Life is Influenced by Social Relationships: An Exploration of Rural Midlife Women in Ireland

Alison Herbert


The aim of this article is to examine and contribute to the existing body of knowledge
on gendered rural ageing by exploring, from a lifecourse perspective, the pivotal role of social relationships
in shaping the quality of life for rural women at mid‑life and beyond. Quality of life is examined in relation
to the contributing factor of social relationships, and the article further explores concepts that intersect
with social relationships to influence quality of life, including those of place, work, and health. As part
of the examination of social relationships, complementary concepts of social inclusion and exclusion,
social isolation, and loneliness are also explored. Findings from qualitative interviews with 25 women
in rural Ireland aged 45–65 years, together with grounded theory analysis, suggest that the quality of life
experienced by rural women at mid‑life is primarily influenced by the presence, absence, and quality
of social relationships experienced with family, friends, and other members of the community. Although
a number of influencing factors contribute to perceived quality of life, meaningful social connectivity
takes precedence. In considering life beyond middle‑age, rural women envisage social inclusion as playing
an increasingly vital role in shaping their ageing and their quality of life.

Klíčová slova

rural ageing; mid‑life women; quality of life; social inclusion; social exclusion; lifecourse; social relationships

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