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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2021

1 - Precarity and Ageing: New Perspectives for Social Gerontology



This book examines some of the challenges facing older people, given a context of rising life expectancy, cuts to the welfare state, and widening economic and social inequalities. Although cultural representations and policy discourses depict older people as a group healthier and more prosperous than ever, many older people experience ageing amid insecurities that emerge in later life or are carried forward as a consequence of earlier disadvantage. At the same time, responsibility is now placed upon individuals and/or their families to secure support for many of the vulnerabilities associated with old age. The purpose of this book is to examine the potential of a new approach to thinking about the risks facing older people, drawing on debates in the field of ‘precarity’ and ‘precariousness’.

This book examines precarity and ageing from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, critical perspectives and contexts. The collection of chapters develops a distinctive approach to understanding the changing cultural, economic and social circumstances that create precarity for different groups of older people. This book explores what insights the concept of precarity might bring to an understanding of ageing across the life course, especially in the context of the radical sociopolitical changes affecting the lives of older people. In doing so, it draws attention to altered forms of ageing, but also to changing social and cultural contexts, and to realities that challenge the assumption that older people will be protected by existing social programmes or whatever resources can be marshalled privately.

This chapter sets the foundation for the book, with an exploration of the concept of precarity and its relevance to the field of ageing. It establishes precarity as a lens, or a means, for drawing attention to insecurity and risk in later life. The chapter begins with a discussion of the concept of precarity and precariousness in fields such as geography and labour studies, and how the concept has been applied to ageing and late life. It then poses a series of questions to guide reflection and ground the debates pursued by authors, followed by a brief overview of the chapters ahead.

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