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Tove Harnett. Foto: Sanna Dolck Wall

Tove Harnett

Senior lecturer | PhD in Social Work

Tove Harnett. Foto: Sanna Dolck Wall

Age logics in social work: The case of harm reduction for people over the age of 50 with long-term substance use problems residing in wet eldercare facilities in Sweden


  • Håkan Jönson
  • Tove Harnett

Summary, in English

Age is a commonly used criterion in social work, whether for entry and exit or for decisions about the appropriate measures for clients. This study introduces the concept of age logics in social work and investigates the use of age in ‘wet’ eldercare facilities. Wet eldercare facilities are harm reduction arrangements open to people over the age of 50 with long-term substance misuse. No treatment is provided, and residents can continue to consume alcohol and other substances for the rest of their lives. At wet eldercare facilities, age is used to mark a shift in ambition: earlier efforts to treat are replaced by attempts to provide care and dignity. The article uses wet eldercare facilities as the example with which to (i) introduce age logics as an analytical tool for critical studies of age in social work; (ii) understand how age logics are used in harm reduction arrangements for older people; and (iii) propose a method to increase age awareness and identify and challenge problematic uses of age in social work. The empirical data consists of interviews with 31 residents, 11 caseworkers and 12 staff members at two Swedish wet eldercare facilities. The analysis identifies four types of age logics linking chronological age with its meanings: (a) the logic of changeability; (b) the logic of lifestyle; (c) the logic of function; and (d) the logic of administrative fit. Together they construct an ideal type of the ‘older addict’, which justified existing arrangements.


  • School of Social Work
  • Ageing and Eldercare
  • LU Profile Area: Proactive Ageing

Publishing year





Qualitative Social Work

Document type

Journal article


SAGE Publications


  • Social Work




  • ISSN: 1473-3250