Aging in the United States: Rethinking Justice, Equality, and Identity Across the Lifespan
17 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2012 Last revised: 7 May 2015
Date Written: May 7, 2012
Our current aging policies and procedures raise profound questions of individual liberty, autonomy, and equality. Guardianship regimes require the state to balance the interests of vulnerable adults with their right to self-determination. The proliferation of age-specific laws designed to protect elders may actually compromise the civil rights of older individuals by denying their autonomy based solely on their age. The regulation of intimacy in long-term care settings infringes on a core liberty interest essential to human dignity. This essay introduces a new body of work that specifically addresses the civil rights aspects of aging.
In many ways, aging represents the ultimate “Big Tent” issue. We all hope that one day we will be afforded the opportunity to age safely and without fear, regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender identity, class, or sexual orientation. Aging provides a rare opportunity to build a thoughtful and inclusive movement that incorporates the lessons learned from other social movements, as well as the insights of critical theory. The challenge going forward is to develop a robust civil rights-based theory of aging that incorporates and respects difference. Such a theory will not only help inform policy proposals but also enrich our larger understanding of identity, as we rethink justice and equality across the lifespan.
Keywords: elder rights, elder law, aging policy, ageism, identity politics, LGBT, social movement, dementia, dependency ratio, guardianship, end of life, elder justice act, sexuality, long term care, oldest old, home health care, caregiving
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation