Using human rights to defeat ageism: dealing with policy-induced ‘structured dependency’<sup>1</sup>

Peter Townsend

in Critical perspectives on ageing societies

Published by Policy Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9781861348906
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447302001 | DOI:
Using human rights to defeat ageism: dealing with policy-induced ‘structured dependency’1

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This chapter focuses on the evolution of social policy and its corresponding institutions and makes a powerful plea for human rights-based approaches to addressing ageism and the structured dependency still experienced by many older people around the world. It argues that by the late 20th century, older people were perceived and treated, according to accumulating research evidence, as more dependent than they really were or needed to be, and that this had been fostered by the emerging institutions of retirement, income maintenance and residential and domiciliary care. Forms of discrimination against older people had become, or continued to be, as deep as forms of discrimination against women and minority ethnic groups. The discussion argues that human rights-based approaches offer a framework of rigorous analysis and a sound basis for anti-discriminatory work.

Keywords: social policy; ageism; older people; domiciliary care; retirement; discrimination

Chapter.  8050 words. 

Subjects: Gerontology and Ageing

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