Ageing, Ageism and the Law
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Ageing, Ageism and the Law

European Perspectives on the Rights of Older Persons

Edited by Israel Doron and Nena Georgantzi

Europe is ageing. However, in many European countries, and in almost all fields of life, older persons experience discrimination, social exclusion, and negative stereotypes that portray them as different or a burden to society. This pivotal book is the first of its kind, providing a rich and diverse analysis of the inter-relationships between ageing, ageism and law within Europe.
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Chapter 2: Age, vulnerability and disability

Titti Mattsson

Abstract

This chapter uses Martha Albertson Fineman’s Vulnerability Theory for a discussion of how the concept of “vulnerability” may be used by researchers as well as policy makers dealing with age-related legal issues to avoid an ageist approach to older persons. The point of departure for the discussion is the social welfare regulation in Sweden, more precisely the Disability Act, which limits disability benefits available to those over 65 years old who have disabilities that are considered to be part of “normal ageing”. The chapter provides an overview of the key elements of Vulnerability Theory and the Swedish disability regulation. It then proposes arguments for why and how this theory could provide a framework for analysis of societal arrangements concerning ageing, and applies this theoretical framework to the national example. An overall conclusion is that age-related restrictions often do not recognize the different ways in which human lives are socially and materially dynamic. Since we are universally vulnerable to changes during our lives, a central task of law and policy is to explore the strategies by which we can respond to human vulnerability. A central insight is that human beings are not more or less vulnerable because of certain characteristics or at various stages in our lives. We do, however, experience the world with differing levels of resilience. Therefore, there is a need to develop legal and policy approaches aimed at fostering individual resilience for older people as well as for people of all other ages.

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