Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-t82dr Total loading time: 0.242 Render date: 2021-12-02T02:07:07.050Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

5 - Disability and Later Life

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 February 2021

Chris Gilleard
Affiliation:
University College London
Paul Higgs
Affiliation:
University College London
Get access

Summary

Social divisions based upon ethnicity or race, gender or socio-economic position form relatively stable sources of identity across the life course. Other aspects of identity are less fixed, particularly those based on bodily appearance and physical functioning. While gender and race form relatively stable sources of embodied distinction, those categories associated with the corporeal markers of illness, impairment or infirmity decidedly do not. Though capable of serving as sources of identity and implicated in various forms of discrimination and inequality, disability and infirmity form rather more contingent sources of social division in part because of the temporal flux within which they emerge. There is a distinction, for example, between the predictable status of becoming aged and the less predictable status of becoming disabled, ill or infirm. Most people see bodily change as constituting the ‘authentic’ basis of age and ageing; reminders of the inevitable temporality that is attached to identity, location and status. Those changes that are evidenced by the ageing body, which do not reflect illness or impairment, best signify the universality attributed to growing old. However, the ageing body is also a site and signifier of illness and infirmity, neither of which convey the same message of inevitability, predictability or universality. The statuses of illness, impairment and infirmity embody and reflect the operation of chance and misfortune in a way that ageing does not; and hence they imply an inequality or unfairness that age lacks. And though culture and society may help or hinder the processes of illness and of infirmity, society per se is not considered their originating cause (Mendes de Leon and Rajan, 2014). Although the social provides the context within which people-as-bodies are framed and understood, the body's corporeality serves as the critical reference point for the signs of both ageing and infirmity. Corporeality acts as a common base. Its materiality as age, however, cannot be so easily subcontracted out to the operations of the economy, culture or society: Though in some sense a social division, it is not imbued with the same intimations of unfairness and misfortune.

Bodies, however thoroughly represented by their corporeality, cannot be easily separated from social processes. Ageing, just like impairment and infirmity, occurs within bodies but also within societies; but unlike impairment and infirmity, age does not reflect already existing social divisions nor does it construct new ones.

Type
Chapter
Information
Social Divisions and Later Life
Difference, Diversity and Inequality
, pp. 95 - 122
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send 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 sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send 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 sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×