Ageing with disabilities – in past, present and future societies

Today, disabled people make up about 1.5 million in Sweden and in the EU countries some 65–80 million. There is poor scientific knowledge about how disabilities affect human life and society despite that we will increasingly experience disabilities due to longer life expectancy. Lotta Vikström’s interdisciplinary project provides knowledge on the implications of ageing with disabilities examining Swedish populations from the 1800s to the present and even into the future.

Lotta Vikström

Professor of History

Wallenberg Scholar

Umeå University


Vikström’s project investigates three research themes. While the first theme identifies disability risks from young to old age during the recent two centuries, the second theme examines how disabilities affect individuals and the health outcomes into old age. This will uncover factors that (dis)favor disability while ageing and the wellbeing and inclusion of disabled people in society across time. Suchlong-term findings are unique in international comparison. They further enable the third theme, which makes projections of disability risks and health outcomes during the next decades. Such results will help governing bodies to improve future health care structures for all ageing people and to decrease negative outcomes of disability.

Vikström brings together a team of scholars representing different disciplines and methodological skills. Statistical analysis of Swedish population registers from c. 1800 until now will show evidence of disability risks and what ageing with disabilities imply. Qualitative studies will reveal how people think and talk about their disability and future today relative to mainstream views in popular culture and mass media. Supportive structures regarding labour, family, leisure and health care are researched with mixed methods. Suchstructures may limit negative effects from disability of importance to people’s wellbeing in later life.