Rethinking care for older people through the lens of disability policies
Annika Taghizadeh Larsson, Håkan Jönson and Tove Harnett reflect on how the 2006 U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has helped re-framing the approach to disability from a human-right perspective and how a similar shift is needed in the approach to care for older people.
The 2006 U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been influential in research and policy debates worldwide. National legislations in many countries have adopted a human rights approach and aimed to avoid social exclusions and discrimination.
Support for (non-old) people with disabilities has encompassed a pronounced process of deinstitutionalization and the implementation of services designed to enable a “life like others” in the community. “Others”, that is other persons without impairments of a similar age, have been used as comparison in claims-making that has aimed for equality in living conditions.
Care and support for persons above the age of 65 years has been based on quite different ambitions, setting goals and providing arrangements that are clearly ageist. In Sweden, for example, care and support for older people with functional impairments is organized differently and has lower ambitions as compared to support for younger people. Justice and rights has been based on comparisons to “others” with similar care needs.
It is also striking that general attempts to combat ageism has focused on the capability and adaption of older people, rather than the way society acts to enable a life like “others”. This way of proving the value of older people with reference to functional capacity is ableist.
Eldercare policies clearly needs to be updated. First, it must be acknowledged that persons with functional impairments above 65 years of age are not just old – they are part of the target population of the CRPD. Second, modeled on disability policies, a new way of making comparisons must be introduced to combat ageism.
Based on updated images of later life and the so-called third age, activists and researchers could argue that people with impairments and support needs in their 60s or 70s should have the right to live like others in the same age. That is, they should have the right to support that enables volunteer work, spending time with grandchildren, and socializing with friends and so on – if they so wish. Not as a standard to live up to, but as a means of claiming rights to live like “others”.
Annika Taghizadeh Larsson, Håkan Jönson and Tove Harnett are researchers at Linköping and Lund University. For more, you can also look into this book chapter (Chapter 22) where arguments used for this blogpost have been further developed: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-319-73820-8