Vulnerability in Old Age. The Fragility of Inappropriately Protected Interests

  • Samia HurstEmail author
Part of the International Perspectives on Aging book series (Int. Perspect. Aging, volume 25)


Protecting the vulnerable is recognized as important; but who is vulnerable and what protections are needed? Six definitions of vulnerability are found in the literature: human finitude, an incapacity to defend one’s own interests, fragility, barriers to health, list-based definitions, and layered vulnerability. Because none of these definitions adequately captures cases where particular vulnerability might exist, we proposed to define vulnerability as an increased risk of being wronged or having our morally protected interests unjustly considered. In applying this definition to old age, many forms of vulnerability both within medicine and in everyday life are revealed. These vulnerabilities can form clusters: Ordinary protections and practices are developed for the situations that, for various reasons, are considered to be the most important or the most “normal” in a given society. Rather than being a misfortune that we may have some duty to compensate, such situations represent a direct consequence of our collective actions: We are committing wrongs and have a much stronger duty to correct this.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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