Rethinking the Concept of Successful Ageing

A Disability Studies Approach

Authored by: Tove Harnett , Annika Taghizadeh Larsson , Håkan Jönson

Handbook on Ageing with Disability

Print publication date:  March  2021
Online publication date:  March  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138611498
eBook ISBN: 9780429465352
Adobe ISBN:


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Successful ageing is one of the most influential concepts in gerontology. Characterisations of successful ageing have generally promoted the importance of individual effort and the maintenance of high physical and cognitive function. The individualising focus and normative features at the heart of the concept of successful ageing have attracted some criticism, particularly from proponents of disability studies, who have argued that the concept of ‘successful ageing’ is stigmatising and should be abandoned. However, this chapter proposes that the concept remains useful and should be reworked, rather than abandoned altogether. By expanding on the principle of Normalisation, this chapter proposes a Scandinavian Model of Successful Ageing that might be used for the measuring successful ageing. Unlike previous measures, the Scandinavian Model does not measure individual achievement, but rather redirects attention from normative to comparative standards in order to ensure the fair distribution of social rights for all people, whether they age with or into disability.

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