Stabilizing the unstable

Exploring the histories, practices and literate actions of writers at the aging stage of life


  • Ryan J. Dippre University of Maine



Literate Action, Aging, Lifespan Writing Development, Curriculum of Aging


The writing that older adults, retirees, and the elderly – what might be referred to as the aging stage of life (Conrad, 1992) – remains under-examined in writing studies. This research project explores the literate practices of five retirees who write on a regular basis in order to understand how they organize themselves and their lives for writing across lifeworlds. A theoretical framework from a lifespan perspective (Bazerman et al., 2017) serves as the departure point for a grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006; Saldana, 2009) analysis of artifacts that emerged from a series of retrospective interview protocols. These protocols were based on previous work in sponsors of literacy (Brandt, 2001) and chronotopic lamination (Prior and Shipka, 2003). Analysis of these interviews and documents reveals a core category of stabilizing that retirees engage in. Writers stabilize their work in a given moment to continue making sense of a chain of literate acts, which enables them to carry forward complex literate lives. These findings suggest that retirees write their way into new contexts shaped by their pre-retirement histories. The manner in which these subjects went about this work suggests that context is an important and complicated concept when examined through a lifespan perspective.

Author Biography

Ryan J. Dippre, University of Maine

Ryan J. Dippre, Assistant Professor of English/Associate Director of Composition, Department of English, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA.


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How to Cite

Dippre, R. J. (2021). Stabilizing the unstable: Exploring the histories, practices and literate actions of writers at the aging stage of life. Writing and Pedagogy, 12(1), 1–22.