Myth busting 'frail aged': exploring age-related vulnerability in community care clients

18 Jul 2007

Home and Community Care policy is underpinned by an aim of decreasing the vulnerability of people who live in the community, in particular, the vulnerability of 'frail aged' and young people with a disability. However, age-related vulnerability is a slippery concept, its causes and outcomes are not always easy to identify. Frequently the causes are simplified, based on assumptions about gender, physical capacity and marital status. A danger of simplistic constructions of age-related vulnerability is the potential for negative impact on community care policy development, and, ultimately, inappropriate service provision.

This paper from the 2007 Australian Social Policy Conference presents some of the findings from a qualitative study which demonstrate the complexity of age-related vulnerability, and challenge the stereotypes of the 'frail aged'. The study uses a framework for understanding age-related vulnerability developed by Schröder-Butterfill and Marianti and, through in-depth interviews and focus groups with 'frail aged' HACC clients across Tasmania, develops a complex picture of vulnerability that considers the interplay between the individual and broader social and political structures. The findings identify opportunities for community care policies and interventions that may decrease vulnerability.

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