Exploring care relations in later life
: disentangling notions of care and choice

  • Philippa Locke

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The experience of later life varies widely and is often framed in terms of the active lifestyles of the Third Age and the frailty and abjection of the Fourth Age. This thesis sought to understand how the concepts of care and choice are enacted, experienced and interrelated in the context of both informal and formal care in later life and how older people themselves, their families and significant others understand and experience these concepts. The discourse of personalisation that dominates care services has led to an emphasis on individual choice, control and independence so that those in need of care are faced with what has been described as the ‘logic of choice’, a focus on individual responsibility rather than care. Adopting a Feminist Foucauldian theoretical approach and drawing on Tronto’s (1993) ethic of care, this thesis explores the experiences of older people and their informal carers through dialogical narrative analysis. The stories begin with the recognition by individuals that there is a need for care and how this need is met through negotiations with families and significant others. As needs increase the physical and logistical limits of informal care by individuals are reached, often leading to a need to ‘choose’ formal care. Rather than impacting solely on the care recipient, formal care is shown as being an experience that is shared with informal carers. Indeed, the participants depict how informal care continues alongside formal care and how the boundaries between them become blurred. I argue that a binary division between actively making choices and being a passive recipient are not appropriate to understandings of care. By disentangling the notions of care and choice this thesis explores the extent to which these concepts are relevant to the experience of older people in specific care situations.
Date of Award15 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKaren A West (Supervisor), Carol A Holland (Supervisor) & Katy Pilcher (Supervisor)


  • ageing
  • ethic of care
  • care relations
  • personalisation

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