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Raymond, E., & Grenier, A. (2015). Social participation at the intersection of old age and lifelong disabilities: Illustrations from a Photo-Novel project. Journal of Aging Studies, 35, 190-200.
Publication year: 2015

Participation is a leading concept in aging policy, research, and social programming. Whether celebrated or questioned as a target for successful aging, participation is primarily written about or for older people, and less frequently by them. Grounded in a critical perspective, this paper outlines the process and results of a participatory action research project aimed to understand how older people with lifelong physical disabilities viewed their participation in society, and how they went about initiating change. Twelve participants took part in the “Photo-Novel Project”, creating collective accounts that were transformed into a series of short graphic novels. Depicted as lead characters, the authors of the Photo-Novel Project challenge dominant representations of impairments in old age as being concomitant to weakness and passivity. First, the accounts create a different story of aging, disability and social participation, one where older people with disabilities are depicted as citizens and insiders of everyday aging trajectories. Second, the graphic representations and insights make apparent the plural forms of participation that can exist, and the tensions between personal choices and the constraints of meager and unaccommodated practices. Results demonstrate the disjuncture between policy and experiences that occur at the intersection of aging and disability, and raise questions about the necessary conditions for authentic participation. We conclude with a call to reframe the collective narrative on older people’s participation to ensure that it will be more inclusive of older people with disabilities.