The Eternal Question of Older People’s Right to Health and Care. The Emergence, Development and Restriction of Geriatric Care in Sweden during the 20th Century

Ulrika Lagerlöf Nilsson, University of Gothenburg

According to a forecast by the UN, the global population aged 60 or over is growing faster than all younger age groups. Within that large age-stratum the group of frail older people in greatest need of care and health care, is growing the fastest. At the same time, geriatrics is a low priority medical specialty challenged by lack of resources and fewer medical professionals willing to work in the field. Sweden has long been presented as the ideal welfare state where a high taxation successfully has generated guaranteed health care, not least in the late stages of life. In the light of geriatric care being renegotiated and even threatened by rationalizations, we must ask ourselves how such a development became possible. In order to better understand this phenomenon a study of the history of geriatrics and its establishment in Sweden is needed. Why did it last until the late 1960s before geriatrics became a medical specialty in Sweden? To what extent was the development in Sweden affected by the one that had occurred much earlier in US and UK where geriatric as a medical specialty was founded during the 1940s? What was seen as beneficial respectively troublesome in honoring geriatrics in Sweden the status of a medical specialty? One basic assumption is that the historically strong societal view of ageing as something normal (not sick) always risks becoming the restricting basis for which health care resources should be added to the field of geriatrics. In addition, this paper will discuss a possible struggle within the medical profession to set and control boundaries of already established medical specialties. To increase our understanding for the present’s ethical, social and economy challenges of geriatrics, we need to go back in time to see how these were dealt with when the specialty was founded.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 51. Health and the State