Elder law and its subject: The contextualised ageing individual

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Elder law is often approached in terms of a 'body' of law. In this article, I argue for a contextualised and externalised perspective on the ageing individual as the subject of elder law. Elder law relates to the implications of law as an institutionalisation of society seen through the lens of older persons. The aged subject is a contested and differentiated social construct to be studied in relation to an externalised social 'problem' and properly contextualised. Whereas the ageing individual in the context of labour law and anti-discrimination regulation turns out to be remarkably young, the specific history of LGBT persons in society comes to the fore in cases where age intersects with a ground such as sexual orientation. The 'ageing' worker must thus be understood in relation to work as the dominant distributive order in society, and in relation to institutions and developments associated with work. Due to the role of age as a traditional social stratifier, the prohibition against age discrimination has been given a weaker format than have prohibitions against other kinds of discrimination, and the ban on ageism has failed to achieve a clear legal status. Deficiencies in the measures taken against age discrimination are also evident in their incapacity to address situations where age intersects with other grounds, resulting in a compartmentalised application and interpretation of discrimination bans, leaving vulnerable sub-groups without protection. In sum, elder law is very much a field in process and - although arguing for the added value of a contextualised perspective - it may for the time being suffice to say that 'elder law is what elder law researchers do'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-535
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number3
Early online date2019 Oct 23
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law (excluding Law and Society)

Free keywords

  • age discrimination
  • compulsory retirement
  • contextualisation
  • elder law
  • intersectional age discrimination
  • LGBT persons


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