Thinking about Later Life: Insights from the Capability Approach

Gopinath, Manik (2018). Thinking about Later Life: Insights from the Capability Approach. Ageing International, 43(2) pp. 254–264.



A major criticism of mainstream gerontological frameworks is the inability of such frameworks to appreciate and incorporate issues of diversity and difference in engaging with experiences of aging. Given the prevailing socially structured nature of inequalities, such differences matter greatly in shaping experiences, as well as social constructions, of aging. I argue that Amartya Sen’s capability approach (2009) potentially offers gerontological scholars a broad conceptual framework that places at its core consideration of human beings (their values) and centrality of human diversity. As well as identifying these key features of the capability approach, I discuss and demonstrate their relevance to thinking about old age and aging. I maintain that in the context of complex and emerging identities in later life that shape and are shaped by shifting people-place and people-people relationships, Sen’s capability approach offers significant possibilities for gerontological research.

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