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    Disability – an Issue for All Ages: A Study of the Experience of Disability and Ageing

    Leahy, Ann (2018) Disability – an Issue for All Ages: A Study of the Experience of Disability and Ageing. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    This study explores subjective experiences of disability with ageing and ageing with long-term disability and the separate organisation of public policies on ageing and on disability that in part shapes those experiences. Using a constructivist grounded theory methodology, this study includes rich interview data from interviews with 50 older people. It also includes data from interviews with 16 people working on disability or on ageing. It can be placed within the theoretical frame of critical gerontology and it is informed by a social constructionist approach to the lifecourse. The study makes an original contribution to the field of critical gerontology by providing evidence to challenge assumptions and policies about older people through an exploration of disablement processes, meaning in life, and public policy approaches on ageing and on disability. It engages with concepts from critical disability studies, with a biographically embodied approach to chronic illness, and with literature on meaningful orientations in life. The study calls for more links between the fields of disability and ageing. It finds that older people experience disablement in their bodies and in their contexts, which, often combined with losses of intimates, challenges their sense of meaning in life. How they respond amounts to a challenging process of trying to remake lives that they perceive as meaningful. By showing, through an inductive analysis, how older people experience disability, the study evidences how the subjective experience of disability in older age is consistent with a biopsychosocial model of disability (where disability is the outcome of the interaction between individual and contextual factors), and, thus, to a model, applied within the field of disability but not of ageing. It also shows how separate frameworks for policy on ageing and disability contribute to keeping in place medicalised, reductionist notions about the nature of disability in older age. The study’s findings point to the usefulness of applying a biopsychosocial model of disability to the field of ageing. The study compares two groups that are assumed to be very different (those experiencing disability with ageing and those ageing with disability) and suggests that the outcomes both groups want for their lives are similar, and that many of the difficulties and barriers faced are similar. The study challenges societal responses to disabled elders, specifically narrowly-focused policy and community responses that ignore the full range of their needs and aspirations for meaningful lives. It supports suggestions that a counter-narrative of ageing and the lifecourse is needed, one that can integrate disablement processes as a ‘normal’ part of life, and that can recognise both the challenges of disablement processes in older age and the ongoing efforts of disabled elders to perceive value and meaning in their lives.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Disability; Issue; All Ages; Disability and Ageing;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology
    Item ID: 10037
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2018 11:39

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