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Critical perspectives on ageing societies

Critical perspectives on ageing societies

Miriam Bernard
Thomas Scharf
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  • Book Info
    Critical perspectives on ageing societies
    Book Description:

    This important book brings together some of the best known international scholars working within a critical gerontology perspective. Together, they review and update our understanding of how the field has developed over the last twenty-five years and, through the lens of 'passionate scholarship', provide a challenging assessment of the complex practical and ethical issues facing older people, and those who conduct research on ageing, in the 21st century. The contributions extend the critical gerontological approach conceptually, methodologically and practically. They offer close and scholarly analysis of policies affecting the lives of older people and provide insights into why research is done in particular ways. Special attention is paid to feminist contributions and new approaches to working in partnership with older people; age discrimination and ageism; the impact of neo-liberal policies and the passage of various human rights instruments; the re-medicalisation of later life; the participation of older people in research; and justice between generations. The editors and contributors offer suggestions for promoting change, and an exciting set of visions and perspectives for the renewal and development of critical gerontology in the years ahead. Critical Perspectives on Ageing Societies will be a valuable resource for all students, academics and practitioners interested in ageing and the life course.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-239-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. List of tables, boxes and figures
    (pp. vi-vi)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Chris Phillipson

    Critical gerontology has its roots in the political and economic crisis affecting western societies during the 1970s and 1980s. The nature of this crisis — with major expenditure cuts to welfare programmes — brought profound consequences for the lives of older people. Reductions in the scope and quality of services were one obvious dimension, raising major question marks over the future of the welfare state. Equally damaging, however, was an ideologically driven critique of demographic change, with the labelling of older people as a ‘burden’ and ‘cost’ to society. Both these elements were influential forces behind early formulations of critical gerontology, most...

  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
    Miriam Bernard and Thomas Scharf
  4. Part One: Historical, theoretical and policy contexts

    • ONE Critical perspectives on ageing societies
      (pp. 3-12)
      Miriam Bernard and Thomas Scharf

      Fictional though the above account is, it contains within it some of the deepseated attitudes and ambivalences many of us have towards ageing and old age despite the fact that recent decades have witnessed the growth of an ever-widening interest in the ageing of societies. In the context of this book, it is the linking of this interest with an explicit critical gerontological focus that provides a unique set of understandings about ageing and later life in the 21st century. Our contributors draw on original and current research and thinking, offering new insights into the past, present and future and...

    • TWO Critical gerontology: reflections for the 21st century
      (pp. 13-26)
      Martha B. Holstein and Meredith Minkler

      Critical gerontology, we believe, must engage in serious but respectful critique of more traditional social gerontology since we assume similar ends but adopt different approaches, sources of knowledge and epistemological stances. In this chapter, we explore where the field of critical gerontology is today in terms of its major commitments and concerns, the way it approaches its multiple tasks, and the opportunities and obstacles it faces as we move further into the 21st century. Although we also look briefly at where more traditional social gerontology is at this juncture, this will be more the backdrop than the central concern of...

    • THREE Using human rights to defeat ageism: dealing with policy-induced ‘structured dependency’
      (pp. 27-44)
      Peter Townsend

      New reports always provide good copy for long-standing theoretical and policy disputes. A recent review from the King’s Fund (Wanless Report, 2006) found very serious shortcomings in social care provision and funding arrangements. Too little of the national income was committed to the social care of older people, and the cost of any system in meeting needs was set to rise. The current means-testing funding system in England, which was found to discriminate unfairly against many people on the borderline between free National Health Service (NHS) care and payment for community care, and which provokes widespread confusion, anger and distress...

    • FOUR The re-medicalisation of later life
      (pp. 45-56)
      Robin Means

      One long-standing concern of critical gerontology has been to unmask policy assumptions relating to older people and to draw out their often negative practical implications (Townsend, 1981a, 2006). This chapter is located within this tradition by focusing on the recent Green Paper onIndependence, well-being and choice(DH, 2005a). As suggested in the title, the whole emphasis of the Green Paper was on empowerment through choice with the Preface from the Prime Minister stressing how the proposals were “an important part of our commitment to renew and modernise all our public services so they are centred on the needs and...

  5. Part Two: Forms of knowing – participatory approaches

    • FIVE Narratives as agents of social change: a new direction for narrative gerontologists
      (pp. 59-72)
      Ruth E. Ray

      In their chapter on ‘Humanistic gerontology and the meaning(s) of aging’, Thomas Cole and Michelle Sierpina (2006) conclude, after surveying the literature of the past 35 years, that humanistic gerontology is still growing and that the “leading edges” in the future will be “research and practice in narrative and creativity”, as well as “feminist perspectives, age studies, and performance studies”. Cole and Sierpina define humanistic gerontology as the search for meaning in old age. Humanistic gerontologists are those who ask, ‘What does it mean to grow old?’, ‘What makes life worth living into old age?’, ‘How does the time and...

    • SIX Redressing the balance? The participation of older people in research
      (pp. 73-88)
      Mo Ray

      Despite the considerable growth of interest in user participation in policy and service development and more recently research, the definition and meaning of participation is a contested and ideologically loaded concept (Braye, 2000). There remains considerable uncertainty as to what does or should constitute participation and what its purpose should be. While there may be significant agreement in the research community that the participation of older people in research is (at least in principle) a good thing, its potential remains significantly underdeveloped as do the complexities of participation. Who should, for example, benefit from research? To what extent should research...

    • SEVEN Revisiting The Last Refuge: present-day methodological challenges
      (pp. 89-104)
      Julia Johnson, Sheena Rolph and Randall Smith

      When Peter Townsend “had to leave his university rooms on his retirement” (Thompson, 1998, p 173), data from his lifetime’s work were deposited in the National Social Policy and Social Change Archive at the University of Essex. As Paul Thompson has commented, this is “very likely the most in-depth documentation that will ever be collected of the conditions and experience of old age and poverty in Britain” (Corti and Thompson, 2004, p 338). Our research is reusing the archived data fromThe Last Refugethat was first published in 1962 (Townsend, 1962), and this chapter focuses on some of the...

    • EIGHT The road to an age-inclusive society
      (pp. 105-122)
      Bill Bytheway, Richard Ward, Caroline Holland and Sheila Peace

      Over the years, ‘the scrap heap’ has been a popular motif in campaigns against mandatory retirement. For many older people it has represented the reality of being excluded from the labour market: thrown on the scrap heap, no use to anyone, next stop the workhouse. In the 1950s and 1960s, how to adjust to retirement was the subject of extensive research (Phillipson, 1993). Success was represented in part by evidence of contentment and in part by that of activity. The concept of ‘disengagement’ was much discussed. During the 1980s and 1990s, attention turned to ‘early’ retirement and the structured relationship...

  6. Part Three: Future considerations

    • NINE Justice between generations: the recent history of an idea
      (pp. 125-138)
      Harry R. Moody

      In the 1980s a debate erupted that was greeted as a policy nightmare for ageing advocates: namely, a claim, from conservatives as well as some prominent liberals, that older people were gaining too many resources at the expense of the young. This ‘generational equity debate’, as it was called, has not disappeared, but it has assumed new forms in different countries. Like ‘The Terminator’, justice between generations is an idea that will not go away. It is therefore the purpose of this chapter to explore both the recent history of this idea, and how it has come to shape contemporary...

    • TEN Progress in gerontology: where are we going now?
      (pp. 139-154)
      Tony Warnes and Judith Phillips

      When we first began to address the question in this chapter’s title, our first and conventional response was to compile a calendar of the principal institutional and funding developments of recent years. That compilation tells a useful story, but it soon became clear that, to understand the many and sometimes conflicting directions of change in the subject, in research funding and priorities, and in older people’s situation in society, analysis was needed. ‘Progress’ implies goals and destinations and, in the production of knowledge, these are the outcome of a complex interchange of ideas and ambitions between funders and researchers. To...