Title

Discourses of risk: implications for the shaping of occupational possibilities for older adults

1

Location

Armory Room

Start Time

30-9-2016 3:00 PM

End Time

30-9-2016 4:30 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

DISCOURSES OF RISK: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE SHAPING OF OCCUPATIONAL POSSIBILILITES FOR OLDER ADULTS

Statement of purpose: In the Western world there is a growing aversion to risk and a concurrent increase in policies and procedures to manage risk (Denny, 2005). From a critical occupational science perspective, discourses of risk, embedded in policies and enacted through various types of practices, shape occupational possibilities, that is, broader conceptions of what individuals can and should do and towards what types of outcomes. At the level of service delivery for aging clients, discourses of risk are enacted through various practices of risk assessment, monitoring and management in ways that can, ironically and sometimes inadvertently, narrow occupational possibilities (Ceci & Purkis, 2009; Dennhardt & Laliberte Rudman, 2012). Methods: We conducted qualitative interviews with 4 Australian occupational therapists practicing within a rural context, and collected relevant institutional documents designed to guide their attention to risks to clients. A critical discourse analysis (Laliberte Rudman & Dennhardt, 2015) approach was taken to analyze both sets of data in to elucidate how risk was conceptualized, how such conceptualizations embodied assumptions about occupations aging individuals living in rural settings should and should not do, and how therapists variously negotiated risk discourses and their implications for occupation. Results: Organizational documents predominantly conveyed a technico-scientific focus on risk as objective, measurable, and able to be proactively managed, often through setting limits on occupational possibilities. Therapists discussed risk as complex, not always predictable, having subjective elements, contextualized and dynamic, and experienced tensions between goals aimed at ensuring safety and those aimed at enabling occupation. Implications for occupational science: Raising critical awareness of how contemporary risk discourses, often underpinned by ageist and paternalistic assumptions, narrow occupational possibilities for aging persons, is an essential first step in addressing occupational inequities that result in the name of ‘keeping older people safe’. Combining critical discourse analysis with attention to how risk discourses play out within a variety of practices and spaces, including occupational therapy practice, provides a means to show the limits of risk discourses as a means to promote human flourishing through occupation in later life.

Discussion questions

What other spaces and practices could be examined to explore how risk discourses impact on human occupation?

How might findings from studies such as this one be used to (re)shape policy?

Keywords: discourse analysis, risk, occupational possibilities

References

Ceci, C., & Purkis, M. E. (2009). Bridging gaps in risk discourse: Home care case management and client choices. Sociology of health & illness, 31(2), 201-214.

Denny, D. (2005). Risk and society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Dennhardt, S. & Laliberte Rudman, d. (2012). When occupation goes ‘wrong’: A critical reflection on risk discourses and their relevance in shaping occupation. In G. Whiteford & C. Hocking (eds.), Occupational science: Society, inclusion and participation (pp.117-136). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Laliberte Rudman, D. & Dennhardt, S. (2015). Discourse analysis: Using critical discourse analysis to situate occupation and occupational therapy. In S. Nayar & M. Stanley (eds.), Qualitative research methodologies for occupational therapy and occupational science (pp.137-154). Oxon: Routledge

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Sep 30th, 3:00 PM Sep 30th, 4:30 PM

Discourses of risk: implications for the shaping of occupational possibilities for older adults

Armory Room

DISCOURSES OF RISK: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE SHAPING OF OCCUPATIONAL POSSIBILILITES FOR OLDER ADULTS

Statement of purpose: In the Western world there is a growing aversion to risk and a concurrent increase in policies and procedures to manage risk (Denny, 2005). From a critical occupational science perspective, discourses of risk, embedded in policies and enacted through various types of practices, shape occupational possibilities, that is, broader conceptions of what individuals can and should do and towards what types of outcomes. At the level of service delivery for aging clients, discourses of risk are enacted through various practices of risk assessment, monitoring and management in ways that can, ironically and sometimes inadvertently, narrow occupational possibilities (Ceci & Purkis, 2009; Dennhardt & Laliberte Rudman, 2012). Methods: We conducted qualitative interviews with 4 Australian occupational therapists practicing within a rural context, and collected relevant institutional documents designed to guide their attention to risks to clients. A critical discourse analysis (Laliberte Rudman & Dennhardt, 2015) approach was taken to analyze both sets of data in to elucidate how risk was conceptualized, how such conceptualizations embodied assumptions about occupations aging individuals living in rural settings should and should not do, and how therapists variously negotiated risk discourses and their implications for occupation. Results: Organizational documents predominantly conveyed a technico-scientific focus on risk as objective, measurable, and able to be proactively managed, often through setting limits on occupational possibilities. Therapists discussed risk as complex, not always predictable, having subjective elements, contextualized and dynamic, and experienced tensions between goals aimed at ensuring safety and those aimed at enabling occupation. Implications for occupational science: Raising critical awareness of how contemporary risk discourses, often underpinned by ageist and paternalistic assumptions, narrow occupational possibilities for aging persons, is an essential first step in addressing occupational inequities that result in the name of ‘keeping older people safe’. Combining critical discourse analysis with attention to how risk discourses play out within a variety of practices and spaces, including occupational therapy practice, provides a means to show the limits of risk discourses as a means to promote human flourishing through occupation in later life.

Discussion questions

What other spaces and practices could be examined to explore how risk discourses impact on human occupation?

How might findings from studies such as this one be used to (re)shape policy?

Keywords: discourse analysis, risk, occupational possibilities