The social dynamics of devaluation in an aged care context

Susan Banks
  • Journal of Sociology, March 2018, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/1440783318766144

How the public discussion about older people and aged care might affect how care work is done.

What is it about?

How people are treated in personal interactions (like the aged care service encounter) is likely to be affected by the way society talks about them. This paper examines that link, using Honneth's recognition theory to analyse the intersection of practice and meaning in this work. The study reveals that workers’ and clients’ presentations of a competent self are compromised by external signals of mistrust and devaluing, forms of misrecognition.

Why is it important?

Public discourses shape behaviour. The public discourses about older people and aged care workers need to change if appropriate and high quality aged care is to become the norm.


Dr Susan M Banks (Author)
University of Tasmania

The stigma attached to ageing and to aged care workers really bothers me, since this is part of a dehumanising that reduces or denies people's human or citizenship rights. It was apparent in my research that public discourses about ageing and about hands-on care workers were stigmatising and that this affected how older people and their care workers act towards one another. I hope this work can at least alert more people - perhaps especially people making policy at national, local or organisational levels - to the way we talk about and behave towards these groups. The language needs to change.

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