Ageing, religion and (in)equality
The purpose of this chapter is to explore some of the effects of religious beliefs, institutions and practices in creating (in)equality for older people. In order to maintain focus, the discussion is restricted to the UK context, and the six religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism) with the strongest organisational presence there. The dynamics of their relationships to the theme of ageing are analysed through Nancy Fraser’s framework of resources, recognition and representation to identify and name the inequalities that mark the experience of older people within religious communities, as well as beyond them. This study concludes that the public and accepted rhetoric of these major religions typically provides a positive valuation of ‘elders’ and, by implication, the status of older people. This might be expected to imply that religious institutions serve to reduce the inequalities associated with ageing for those who adhere to them; but the public rhetoric of aged privilege may conceal significant heterogeneity of worth, visibility and status which has a direct effect upon an individual’s ability to shape their environment or mobilise cultural assets. The chapter concludes that, within Fraser’s analytical framework, the key determinant of (in)equality is the recognition accorded to diverse expressions of ageing: this in turn influences access to resources and the normative image of ageing members represented in public discourse.