Recollections of a Working Lifecourse: Growing older with physical or sensory disabilities

Diane Roberts

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    Arising from personal experience and observations in employment, this thesis considers the working life course experiences of people growing older with long-term physical or sensory disabilities. It uses: work as a fulcrum to examine experience; the concept of the life course to embed disability within the ordinary elements of everyday life; and a social model approach to conceptualise impairment and disability. In addition, Adaptive Theory is used as an approach to the overall study design to recognise both researcher perspective and substantive theory in developing research instruments, data collection techniques and analytical framework. The thesis begins with a research and literature review which identifies some parallels and tensions between the disciplines of Critical Social Gerontology and Disability Studies. Building on exploratory discussions with disabled trade unionists, it then focuses on empirical research with 14 workers aged 40-65, from a range of non-sheltered occupations and disabled by physical or sensory impairments for at least 15 years. In-depth interviews about the intersection of work, ageing and disability examine how each person manages the challenges and opportunities encountered. The findings indicate how the impact of being disabled across the lifecourse is not only structurally influenced and socially constructed but also dynamically contextualised and interwoven into individual self-concept. In moving away from a conventional focus on barriers, discrimination and oppression the thesis demonstrates that a more nuanced approach to lifecourse experiences is fundamental to understanding the process of growing older with a disability. In addition, by defining and accessing participants as ‘workers’ rather than ‘older’ or ‘disabled’ people they proved to be both ‘hidden’ and ‘seldom heard’ in the existing research and literature. In parallel, therefore, the thesis also explores the research process itself by posing questions about the nature of research both in Critical Social Gerontology and in Disability Studies.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Keele
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2010


    • disability
    • growing older
    • lifecourse


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