Skip to main content Accessibility help

The same old process? Older people, participation and deliberation



Opportunities for older people to take part in decision making about public policies and services are expanding in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. This paper considers the potential of older people's participation in policy processes for both transforming the policy process and for achieving socially just outcomes. It argues that the way in which such participation takes place, in particular the nature of the deliberative processes, affects both who will feel able to take part and the capacity to develop new policy discourses which can challenge official perspectives and assumptions. It draws from critical perspectives on deliberative democracy to provide a theoretical framework. This work emphasises the importance of story telling and forms of exchange designed to offer recognition to others, as well as the rational argument more usually associated with deliberation on matters of public policy. The argument is illustrated with examples of participation initiatives that have involved ‘active’ older people and those who are users of social care services. Different styles and processes of exchange are distinguished in the three case studies. In one, active facilitation enables individual stories of ageing and of service use to be woven into collective narratives that offer an alternative vision of care services. In another, a strong emphasis on ‘greeting’ enables conflicting views to be expressed without participants falling out. In the third, styles of exchange familiar in formal debate limit the development of an alternative discourse. The conclusion suggests that attention needs to be given to the process of participation as well as to outcomes.


Corresponding author

Marian Barnes, Institute for Applied Social Studies, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK e-mail:


The same old process? Older people, participation and deliberation



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed