Elderly living in nursing homes or receiving home help in their private homes are often very dependent on the help provided by care workers. The paper deals with how the character of the provided help is influenced by the way the care workers perceive the elderly and their situation. In particular, the paper focuses on how elderly identity is constructed within an adult basic education programme in the social and health care sector in Denmark. The programme being involved is for adults who would like to work in the social and health care sector at a basic level; the programme consists of theoretical courses and on-the-job training in a nursing home or in the private homes of the elderly. The paper suggests that throughout the theoretical courses a specific elderly identity is constructed alongside the future care helper identity: E.g. while the care helpers are construed as activating and motivating helpers, the elderly are construed and looked upon as a homogeneous group that must be activated. Likewise in the traineeships: The care worker staff and their practices influence the students´ view upon the elderly. The elderly as well as the students are positioned by the dominant discourses within the field with crucial consequences for the elderly in need of help. The paper suggests that the discourses (and practices) mobilised in the different settings may sometimes be opposing. Theoretically the study draws on 'positioning theory’, i.e. a poststructuralist approach, and the main theorists are Bronwyn Davies and Michel Foucault. An empirical example is included in the paper, and the focus is on how elderly identity and student identity are suggested and shaped by the different settings of the programme. The content of the paper is part of a PhD project in progress. The project is mainly an educational research project; however as the programme being studied is withinThe Basic Social and Health Education Programmes in Denmark, Elderly Identity is an important subtheme.
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Internationl Symposium on Cultural Gerontology Inaugural Conference of the European Network in Aging Studies (ENAS), 2011