Perceptions and presentations of living with everyday risk in later life

Bornat, Joanna and Bytheway, Bill (2010). Perceptions and presentations of living with everyday risk in later life. British Journal of Social Work, 40(4) pp. 1118–1134.



In a context of neo-liberalism, individual responsibility for risk and the protection of individuals from risk has led to risk management and assessment becoming central to the practice of social work. Social workers' involvement with older people tends to occur in crisis situations, with the result that stereotypical understandings of the vulnerability of older people may be reinforced. Drawing on data from interviews and diaries, the article presents a temporal analysis of the ways in which perceptions of risk are presented by older people themselves and the people close to them. It reveals how older people link risk to family, health and social relations, and how they account for their continuing survival. In interviews, older people present their lives as well ordered and organised. By contrast, diaries that detail their everyday activities offer evidence of a more active engagement in risk avoidance, suggesting that living with everyday risk is a salient feature of late life. Integrating these two temporal framings, we argue for a more processual understanding of risk in later life and how it is evaluated and experienced by older people.

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