Triple powerlessness traps and old age : Implications for social work practice

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

1 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)952-969
Journal / PublicationJournal of Social Work
Issue number4
Online published16 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


Summary: Over the last two decades older people in Hong Kong have experienced increased powerlessness. This article argues that the prevalent use of structural analysis, mainly the political economy approach, provides an inadequate explanation of the strong sense of powerlessness experienced by older people in a Chinese society like Hong Kong. The article extends structural level analysis by embracing two additional levels, cultural and professional practice, to examine old age powerlessness in Hong Kong. 
Theoretical advances: This paper contributes to increasing knowledge relating the concept of powerlessness to aging through a new analytical perspective, the “triple powerlessness traps” that include the structural, cultural, and professional practice levels of analysis. 
Applications: The inclusion of two additional levels—cultural and professional practice—adds a necessary new dimension and depth to the analysis by suggesting that cultural explanations and the disempowering effects of professional practice should be afforded increased weight in the study of old age powerlessness in the Chinese context. The “triple powerlessness traps” help enhance analysis of old age powerlessness in societies facing cultural changes and the erosion of cultural values. They also have the practical value of arousing the awareness of social work professionals of the negative effects of the disempowered professional practice in producing or sustaining old age powerlessness and the need for changing social work practice at the policy, societal, agency, or organizational and personal levels.

Research Area(s)

  • Hong Kong, old age powerlessness, social work practice, Triple powerlessness traps