The promotion of independence is a dominant theme in policy on old age and is also a principle used to guide social work practice with older people. This qualitative study of older people’s experiences of independence reveals that independence is a complex notion with a variety of meanings. In-depth interviews with older Australians elicited five main discourses on independence: doing things alone; making one’s own decisions; physical and mental capacity; having resources; social standing and self-esteem. Whilst the goal of independence was strongly upheld by the older people, negative experiences associated with independence were also revealed. Based on the experiences of these older people, the findings of this study offer insights for social workers prepared to move beyond individualistic interpretations of independence and promote socially inclusive independence
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