Dying old: and preferably alone? Agency, resistance and dissent at the end of life

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Allan Kellehear

Abstract

Older people who die alone are commonly portrayed negatively in the academic and popular literature. Dying alone is viewed either as an outcome of anti-social behaviour or the result of family, neighbourhood or social services neglect. The idea that people may be exercising agency, resistance or dissent at the end of life and that they do not want attention from services or the wider community receives little or no consideration. By comparing the community and professional views with those of the elderly about end of life preferences, this paper argues that the academic and community image of the elderly as ’’victims’’ has eclipsed the usual ability to see this group in pluralist terms. This stereotype of older people who die alone has negative consequences for sociological and policy analysis.

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