Ageing and Performance: From Medicalization to Pharmaceuticalization

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 15:50
Oral Presentation
Noémia LOPES, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL) - Egas Moniz, Centro de Investigação Interdisciplinar (CiiEM), Portugal
The decline of individuals’ ability to perform at the same level, on various domains, associated with old age, has become, since the 1970’s, a particular target for medicalization processes. More recently, the medicalization of old age expanded the range of its intervention, shifting its focus from treatment to enhancement/rejuvenation. This new pattern of medicalization of old age cannot be separated from the expansion of pharmaceuticalization. Its vast therapeutic offer is geared not only towards treating pathologies of old age, but also towards responding to modern expectations of old age rejuvenation (and expanding them), giving rise to a flourishing anti-ageing industry as Higgs & Jones coined it. Within this frame of pharmaceuticalization, countering physical and cognitive decline, a new market for natural products (such as food supplements, nutraceuticals or natural medicines) has also been developing. This constitutes another pattern of consumption – where these products are generally used in tandem with pharmaceuticals. In this presentation we aim to discuss ageing, increasingly defined as a social problem and constituted as a site for the expansion of medicalization and pharmaceuticalization, largely driven by market dynamics. This discussion will be set in the context of the consumption of memory medication – as a modern icon of rejuvenated old age – and its impacts on identities, when used for the management of performance, or the management of disease. This approach is empirically based on a study conducted with a sample of 414 elders (aged 65 +), physically and cognitively autonomous, living alone in their homes or in institutional settings, in the city of Almada, in Portugal. A mixed methods approach was used, comprising, firstly, a survey (n=414) and, secondly, life history interviews (n=30) to the people previously inquired.