CfP: Old Age Care in Times of Crisis, Past & Present

An ageing population is now a global phenomenon, with older people living longer thanks to changes in medicine, public health, and welfare services. But it is not clear that these later years are spent in better health. Now, as in the past, many older people struggle physically and/or mentally, due to a range of bio-psycho-social factors including poverty, malnutrition, isolation, exclusion, inadequate housing, illness, and poor healthcare. In both the recent and more distant past, the provision of care for older people has involved a host of actors from international agencies and NGOs, national and local governments, charities, campaigners, medical and care professionals, and, of course, families and community networks. What has happened to these endeavours, and to old age care as a whole, in times of crisis? Does crisis bring change – for better or worse – in the practices, ideas, cultures, laws, and structures surrounding care for older people?

In a two-day, cross-disciplinary symposium, we will consider how social care, medical treatment, and the rights of older people have been affected in any setting (including nursing homes, hospitals, asylums, convents, workhouses, prisons, temporary settlements, supported accommodation, and private homes) in times of crisis or severe disruption. This could have been caused by war, pandemic, plague, famine, economic depression and austerity, industrialisation, political extremism, enslavement, colonialism, or environmental damage/collapse. 

Reflections on old age care in times of crisis are welcome from any discipline across the humanities and social sciences. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the impact of crisis, past and present, on:

  • Attitudes towards older people, ageism, age discrimination, reinforcing stereotypes, ideas of ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ ageing
  • Shifting cultural representations of old age
  • The politicisation of resources and resource providers; eg, social care versus health care
  • Access to medical care; diagnoses and treatment
  • Perceptions of dementia and cognitive decline
  • Access to social care; poverty, pensions, welfare regimes; isolation, community integration
  • Families: disruption, trauma, proximity, and the provision of care
  • Issues relating to notions of selfhood and identity, as well as of gender, race, class, sexuality and disability in older people and carers 
  • Human rights of older people and people with dementia, including concerns around ethics, mental capacity, consent and elder abuse
  • End-of-life care in institutions and at home

Confirmed speakers include: Elizabeth Barry, Mary Donnelly, Claire Hilton and Pat Thane. 


The symposium will either be a ‘live’/online mix or online only. It will be held over two afternoons BST on 8 and 9 April 2021 and be limited to speakers and discussants. Speakers will be asked to submit a 3,000-word paper by 19 March, for circulation to attendees only. At the webinar, they will give a short 10-minute summary of their paper, which will be recorded.  We hope to upload the recordings to an online platform for wider dissemination.  


If you would like to give a paper, please submit five key words, an abstract of up to 200 words, and a brief bio to Louise Hide and Janet Weston at by the extended date of 7 December 2020.