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Creating a common world through action: what participation in community activities means to older people

  • Chikako Endo (a1)


As a response to demographic ageing, various governments have been promoting social policies that promote older people's participation in productive activities, including those outside the formal labour market. Nevertheless, older people's behaviours do not simply reflect government policies and intentions. This paper explores how older people themselves interpret their social roles within a policy context that seeks to position them as providers of welfare through their participation in community activities. For this purpose, this paper draws on a qualitative case study of older people in Japan engaging in health promotion and mutual aid among local residents. By employing Hannah Arendt's distinction between the human activities of labour, work and action as a conceptual framework, it finds that although the purported purpose of community activities was to substitute decreasing pensions and family care or to create a better community, participants in this study valued their activities as a process of creating new relations and new realities through action. The paper argues that while labour has occupied a predominant position in the post-war welfare paradigm, community activities by an expanding population of older people may offer opportunities for action, which were not always available through paid work or care-giving in the household.


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