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1 - Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 April 2023

Ann Leahy
Affiliation:
Maynooth University, Ireland
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Summary

This book is about how older people experience physical or sensory disability. Its starting point is a belief that the issue of disability is deeply significant for individuals and societies, and that societies must learn from people who experience disability. The basis for the book is an empirical study with two groups rarely considered together in empirical or theoretical work: people first experiencing disability in older age; and people ageing with long-standing disability.

The book takes a critical approach to gerontology, which characteristically explores questions about meaning, asking how older people make sense of their experience and how tacit or explicit cultural ideals shape that experience (Holstein and Minkler, 2007; Twigg and Martin, 2015). Primarily, the book aims to elucidate experiences of disability in older age. To call the experiences considered here ‘disability’, rather than, say, ‘fourth age’, is already to take up a position (before discussing what exactly is meant by the word ‘disability’), one intended to gesture towards other areas of scholarship. Thus, the book brings disparate areas of scholarship into a critical dialogue, drawing on disability studies, aspects of medical sociology and lifecourse studies, as well as on social gerontology. Disability and ageing are usually approached separately in scholarship. Looking at them together suggests that the subjective experiences of older disabled people are not well understood, with underdeveloped theorising, gaps in empirical evidence and parallel approaches in the fields involved that largely fail to inform each other.

Based on empirical findings, the book argues that older people experience disability and worsening disablement in their bodies and in their contexts. They can be disabled by inaccessible environments and disablist interactions with others. Often experienced in combination with losses of intimates, this can represent a fundamental challenge, amounting to nothing less than a challenge to a sense of value and meaning in life. Older people can also respond dynamically by trying to reinterpret or remake their lives in ways that enable them to perceive value and meaning in life. In other words, older disabled people engage in challenging processes involving interpretation and reinterpretation that are underappreciated in dominant understandings of later life lived with disability as a residual category encompassed in concepts such as the ‘fourth age’.

Type
Chapter
Information
Disability and Ageing
Towards a Critical Perspective
, pp. 1 - 14
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Introduction
  • Ann Leahy, Maynooth University, Ireland
  • Book: Disability and Ageing
  • Online publication: 16 April 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781447357186.002
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  • Introduction
  • Ann Leahy, Maynooth University, Ireland
  • Book: Disability and Ageing
  • Online publication: 16 April 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781447357186.002
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Ann Leahy, Maynooth University, Ireland
  • Book: Disability and Ageing
  • Online publication: 16 April 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781447357186.002
Available formats
×