Journal Article

Independence in Old Age: The Route to Social Exclusion?

Debbie Plath

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 38, issue 7, pages 1353-1369
Published in print October 2008 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online July 2007 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Independence in Old Age: The Route to Social Exclusion?

Show Summary Details


The promotion of independence is a dominant theme in policy on old age and is also a principle used to guide social work practice with older people. This qualitative study of older people’s experiences of independence reveals that independence is a complex notion with a variety of meanings. In-depth interviews with older Australians elicited five main discourses on independence: doing things alone; making one’s own decisions; physical and mental capacity; having resources; social standing and self-esteem. Whilst the goal of independence was strongly upheld by the older people, negative experiences associated with independence were also revealed. Based on the experiences of these older people, the findings of this study offer insights for social workers prepared to move beyond individualistic interpretations of independence and promote socially inclusive independence.

Keywords: ageing, ageism, independence, social exclusion

Journal Article.  6829 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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