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Talking about frailty: The relationship between precarity and the fourth age in older peoples' constructions of frailty

Cluley, Victoria; Martin, Graham; Radnor, Zoe; Banerjee, Jay


Assistant Professor in Sociology

Graham Martin

Zoe Radnor

Jay Banerjee


The clinical identification of frailty is increasingly thought to be important in countries with ageing populations. Understanding how older people labelled as frail make sense of this categorisation is therefore important. A number of recent studies have reported negative perceptions of the term among older people themselves. Building on this, we focus on how and why those assessed to be frail make sense of frailty as they do. We draw on a discourse analysis of situated interviews with 30 older people accessing emergency care in an English NHS hospital. Three interpretive repertoire pairs (Frailty is a bodily issue / frailty is about mind-set; Frailty is a negative experience / frailty is an inevitable experience; I'm not frail / I feel frail), identified across the participants' talk, are outlined and discussed in relation to discourses of the fourth age and precarity. We conclude that frailty is often seen in terms what others have referred to as ‘real’ old age and is linked to discourses of dependence and precarity.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 8, 2021
Online Publication Date Jul 13, 2021
Publication Date 2021-09
Deposit Date Feb 10, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jul 14, 2023
Journal Journal of Aging Studies
Print ISSN 0890-4065
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 58
Article Number 100951
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This paper is the correct version following a publication error. The other article I submitted to RIS with this same DOI has now been removed from the journal and replaced with this version. This was a publication error on the journal's part.


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