The Scandinavian Model of Successful Aging

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 12:45
Oral Presentation
Håkan JÖNSON, Lund University, School of Social Work, Sweden
Tove HARNETT, Lund University, School of Social Work, Sweden
Annika TAGHIZADEH LARSSON, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Linköping University, Sweden
The concept of successful aging has been closely related to the absence of disease and disability and tends to equate health and high functional capacity of individuals with success. In this paper we will redirect attention from the – much criticized – normative and individualized character of successful aging, into an innovatory framework inspired by disability studies and activism that focuses on comparisons as means to argue for social rights of older people. Drawing on the Scandinavian normalization principle of disability policies, and its goal that persons with disability should have the right to life like “others”, we will introduce the Scandinavian Model of Successful Aging where success is defined as the ability of society to support and enable its aging members to have a high level of functioning and an active engagement with life. With this approach, third age activities like travelling, participating in voluntary work or studying should not be regarded as ideals of old age but could be used as comparisons in order to claim rights of older people with disability to get support in order to be able to live like others. The proposed reframing of successful aging will be investigated using three research projects. The first and second are based on in-depth interviews with older persons aging with impairments and the third is a case study of a Swedish woman with late-stage dementia living an active and independent life supported by personal assistants and a variety of assistive devices. The paper concludes that a social rights approach forwards the debate on successful aging and although the concept is inherently problematic it may be used to highlight enabling and limiting context, linked to specific models of social policy.