Title of ArticleCritical perspectives on person, care and ageing: unmasking their interconnections
Type of ArticleIntroductory Article
Author/sChristine Øye, Kari Marie Thorkildsen and Oddgeir Synnes
ReferenceVolume 10, Special Issue on Critical Perspectives on Person, Care and Aging, Introductory Article
Date of PublicationMarch 2020

The need for theoretical and empirical investigation of perspectives on the concept of person in relation to care and ageing is highly relevant due to care policy approaches guided by ideas and priorities in relation to person-centred care, user participation, active ageing, quality in care, and patient rights, among other things. The political and professional priorities involved mean there is a need to explore the notions and interconnections of person, care and ageing because these have consequences for how care services are organised and delivered in real-life settings. Therefore, this special issue will critically examine how the relationship between person, care and ageing can be illuminated empirically and theoretically.

The concept of person

The concept of person is part of disciplinary trends in nursing as well as in other health and social care professions, evident in concepts such as person-centred practice, person-centred healthcare, person-centred medicine, person-centred communication, person-centred therapy and even person-centred music therapy. These are all concepts with an influence on how we think about care, but also how care is practiced in health and social services for older persons. Nevertheless, the literature addressing different forms of the concept of person has paid little attention to the ‘roots’ of the concept of person.

In 1938, the anthropologist Marcel Mauss wrote an essay on person, called A category of the human mind: the notion of person, the notion of self. The Latin word persona translates as ‘mask’; ‘persona equals mask’ (Allen, 1985, p 28). Mauss argues that the notion of person connotes a role – ‘a role played by the individual in sacred dramas’ (1938/1985, p 12). He suggests the concept of person must be seen as part of social and cultural aspects, and he explores how it is embedded in institutions, social entities and beliefs of various kinds. That means that the concept of person is not to be understood as an innate or anatomical structure, but rather as part of wider cultural and social systems. All societies have a notion of being a person, in the sense of being aware of one’s body and individuality in a spiritual and physical way. Nevertheless, such a ‘person’ entity is part of something outside of oneself; part of others and part of a social history (Mauss, 1938/1985, p 3). Accordingly, Mauss suggests that scholars should unmask the notions of person in relation to social entities. He also asks the questions: who is entitled to be a person? Will persons ageing be entitled to be persons, and in what way, defined by whom?

This article by Christine Øye, Kari Marie Thorkildsen and Oddgeir Synnes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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