Aging and Society
Cambridge University Press
School of Nursing and Midwifery / Centre for Research in Aged Care
Risk is an innate and integral part of everyday life and is present in simple, everyday occupations and complex actions. Age-related stereotypes can mean older people have little opportunity to engage in activities that present some degree of risk. The present study explores the discourse around risk and older people in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We investigated news media as a reflection of the dominant public discourse around older people's behaviour to identify how risk is represented in relation to occupational engagement. Texts relating to older people and COVID-19 were sourced from the West Australian newspaper for a period of two months. Seventy texts were subject to Foucauldian discourse analysis to identify subject positions, location of risk and discursive features. Findings indicate that older people were segregated from the rest of society, with their behaviours framed in mostly negative ways. We identified three areas of discourse: vulnerable, and in need of protection; recalcitrant, and in need of management; and resilient, deserving of respect. While we recognise competing representations, implicit within the dominant discourse was the premise that older people were not capable of mediating risks and required ‘management’. These findings highlight the role of surveillance in restricting occupational engagement for older people and carry implications for older people, the public and therapists.
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