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A growing number of organisations in residential care for older people are working towards safe and inclusive environments for LGBT residents. In the Netherlands, these efforts are supported by an LGBT inclusion scheme called ‘Pink Passkey’. Drawing on critical organisational diversity studies, the paper understands inclusion as ‘accomplished’ in interactions across difference, and as always inherently partial (i.e. exclusion-producing). Qualitative methods are used to study the implementation process of the Pink Passkey in two nursing homes during one year. In sum, the paper contributes evidence of positive change associated with the use of the Pink Passkey as an inclusion scheme characterised by a long-term, open-ended and comprehensive approach. Compared to fixed-term projects and stand-alone measures described in previous LGBT ageing literature, an inclusion scheme helps to gain sustained attention to sexual and gender diversity (despite gaps in the implementation process), to normalise it more and to overcome opposition (though this does not disappear). The inclusion accomplished is, indeed, partial: bisexual, transgender and other gender non-conforming identities are less represented than gay and lesbian identities. Also, there is an emphasis on residents' agency to disclose LGBT identities and preferences, which excludes involuntary same-sex sexual expressions caused by disinhibited behaviour. The paper ends by suggesting disinhibited behaviour in older LGBT adults as an issue of interest to the wider literature on LGBT ageing, given the increasing prevalence of dementia and Parkinson's disease. Here, the role of care professionals who are able to understand and respond to bodily cues that echo struggles with otherness merits further consideration.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted concern about the wellbeing of older people, however, there have also been accounts of increased sense of community in response to the disruption of established routines. To explore how older people experienced lockdown in Aotearoa/New Zealand, we analysed 635 written comments on the 2020 wave of the Health, Work and Retirement longitudinal survey of people aged 55–85 years. Using narrative genre analysis, we discuss two narratives of lockdown: a narrative of lockdown as ‘idyllic’ and a ‘dystopian’ narrative of distrust. Using the idyllic narrative, people described pleasant activities and linked these stories to earlier times when community life was less time-pressured and people were more connected to one another. The dystopian narrative was used to describe politicians and the media as untrustworthy and to depict new vulnerabilities created by the rules of lockdown. These narrative genres provide different positions for older people. In the idyllic narrative, older people are treasured and supported by younger community members, whereas in the dystopian narrative older people feel abandoned and manipulated. These genres draw on possible late-life futures that are familiar to older people: either treasured or discarded. Identifying these narrative genres reveals the different vulnerabilities older people experience. This information can be used to support older people to experience security and to flourish in uncertain times.
The aim of this paper is to review the social constructionist view of age and ageing that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It begins with a general consideration of social constructionism as an epistemological framing of the world, before turning to its use in social gerontology. It considers two distinct social constructionist approaches treating later life as a social reality: (a) as a structural consequence of the rise of the modern state and its organisation of the labour market and (b) as a consequence of shifting cultural and social representations. Arguing that the earlier more structuralist accounts have gradually become overshadowed by concerns over age as identity, socially constructivist approaches now place as much emphasis upon the social representation of age as on its social-structural organisation. The paper then reviews the costs and benefits of social constructionism in general and its becoming a key part in the study of ageing. Its benefits arise from drawing attention to the salience of the cultural and the social in fashioning age and ageing and thereby advancing the sociology of later life. At the same time, social constructionist approaches to old age risk neglecting an other personal and social reality arising from corporeal decline and fear of the body-to-come. The paper concludes by noting how, whether approaching ageing and old age as natural kinds or as human kinds, adopting biological or sociological methodologies, all such methods privilege the externality of age – whether as a social or a biological fact. What is not captured by either is the problematic internality of age. What might be called the subjectivity of age will remain a topic for cultural representation, beyond the methods of both biological and social science.
This paper considers how a diagnosis of dementia affects people's planning for future social care needs and associated costs. It addresses the gap in knowledge about how people recently diagnosed with dementia, and their family carers, engage with planning for social care needs that are uncertain in timing and scale. The paper also considers people's attitudes to planning for care that they may need to pay for privately, and what facilitates or hinders acting on such plans. We conducted and undertook thematic qualitative analysis of 39 in-depth interviews with 27 people newly diagnosed with dementia and/or their carers over a two-year period. Topics included current care and support, planning and co-ordinating care, paying for care, and expectations and planning for the future. The research took place in England. Our findings indicate that whilst people recognised they would have future care needs, with associated financial implications, this knowledge did not necessarily translate into actively planning for care or its cost. A key reason that recognition did not translate into action was uncertainty, manifested in three areas: the timescales and trajectory of their dementia and thus need for care; the potential for care needs to change and so negate care planning efforts; and uncertainty over their own capabilities to plan for and access paid-for care, given the perceived complexity of social care and associated financial arrangements. The paper discusses how anticipated regret may affect decision-making and contributes to debates about appropriate professional support for older self-funders with dementia. It suggests the task for those involved in the care of people with dementia is to identify the points and places in the care system where worries about future self-funded care can be addressed, and carers and the people they care for can be prompted and supported to act.
Despite a large body of research on the effects of widowhood on health, little is known about whether spousal loss is related to functional impairment in widowed persons. This study examines the trajectories of functional impairment (sensory and masticatory functions) before and after spousal loss. This study also investigates whether the temporal changes in functional impairment of widowed people are gendered. Using data from the Korean Longitudinal Study of Ageing over seven waves (42,967 person-observations), this study estimated fixed effects regression models to account for unobserved individual-level heterogeneity. Gender-stratified fixed effects regression models were used to determine whether changes in functional impairment associated with spousal loss differ by gender. The results of this study indicated that the vision of widowed people began to decrease within the first year following spousal loss and persisted through the fourth and subsequent years. By contrast, mastication deterioration occurred only among widowers. Masticatory impairment began during the first year of spousal loss and lasted the entire survey period. No statistically significant reduction in hearing loss was found for both widowers and widows. The results of this study suggest that spousal loss has a long-term effect on functional impairment, particularly in vision and masticatory functions. This study also documents gender heterogeneity in the trajectories of functional impairment before and after spousal loss. Vision impairment was found to be universal among widowers and widows, whereas masticatory impairment was significant only among widows. To address the physical and psychological vulnerability of widowed people, policies should be developed early in the process of adjusting to widowhood.
The significance of home is broadly recognised as representing selfhood, safety and autonomy. For older people, especially those with dementia, the ability to age in place at home can be threatened by a necessary move into a care home. Home has heightened importance for people with dementia. We know most people want to stay in their own homes, but there is limited research which explores what home means for people with dementia when they move into care homes. Based in a care home in regional New South Wales, Australia, this study used the arts-based method, body mapping, to explore what home meant to people with dementia and/or cognitive impairment. Seven body maps were co-created by current residents (four), family members and supporters (six) and researchers (three). The findings of the body-mapping process highlighted that home is much more than a physical location. Home meant having the ability to carry out practices and rituals, use objects, maintain relationships and experience sensations that are personally meaningful, and which differ from one person to the next. Their body maps revealed that in care homes, people could not ‘do home’ anymore because many of the practices, objects, people and places that mattered to them were no longer accessible. Body mapping was a useful method that facilitated the exploration of a holistic expression of home that would not have been possible with more traditional methods. For people with dementia, home was not only embodied and spatial, but also temporal, helping us to understand the ways in which care homes might facilitate a greater sense of home for people with dementia.
In the context of an ageing population and longer working lives, the impact of increasing rates of early exit from the labour force on quality of life is a particularly current concern. However, relatively little is known about the impact on quality of life of later-life labour force transitions and various forms of early exit from the labour force, compared to remaining in employment. This paper examines lifecourse labour force trajectories and transitions in relation to change in quality of life prior to the State Pension Age. Lifecourse data on early life circumstances, labour force trajectories and labour force transitions from 3,894 women and 3,528 men in the National Child Development Study (1958 British Birth Cohort) were examined in relation to change in quality of life, measured by a short-form version of CASP, between the ages of 50 and 55. Women and men differed in the types of labour force transition associated with positive change in quality of life, with men more frequent beneficiaries. For both men and women, labour force exit due to being sick or disabled was associated with a negative change in quality of life, whereas joining the labour force was associated with a positive change in quality of life. Moving into retirement was associated with a positive change in men's quality of life, but not women's. Moving from full-time to part-time employment was associated with a positive change in women's quality of life but not men's. The findings that stand out for their policy relevance are: the threat to the quality of life of both women and men from early labour force exit due to limiting longstanding illness; and women are less likely to experience beneficial labour force exit in the later years of their working life, but are more likely to benefit from a reduction in working hours.
Recent studies provide evidence that the coverage of older people's issues in the mass media during the COVID-19 pandemic was accompanied by a (re-)emergence of negative stereotypes surrounding the question of age. However, these studies primarily relied on written materials. As visual imagery has the power to attract greater attention than words, this study set out to investigate the visual portrayal of older adults in the mass media. Via web crawling, we identified a total of 3,560 articles with keywords such as ‘older adults’ and ‘COVID-19 pandemic’ in the four most popular online news sites in Germany during the first phase of the pandemic. We applied visual content analysis to assess the frequency of a diverse set of characteristics of older adults in the cover photos of the articles in question (N = 604). Older individuals were most often depicted as physically weak, alone, professionally taken care of, passive, living at home or in a nursing home, and cognitively inactive. The images – mostly of female passing persons – were characterised by a stereotypical presentation that evokes distance to the subject by cropping out any faces. Our results reflect findings on the negative media representation of older adults as homogenously vulnerable in verbal materials during the COVID-19 pandemic in contrast to increasingly diverse representations in pre-pandemic times. This stereotypical misrepresentation of older adults can be interpreted as visual ageism, which is amplified by their visual othering. Our findings demonstrate the need for the media to reflect upon these practices as negative age stereotypes have an impact on mental health for people of all ages.
Healthy ageing is a dynamic process, but only a few studies use a longitudinal perspective to investigate the routes to healthy ageing and rarely do so in comparative perspective. This study adopts a holistic multi-domain approach in order to investigate the importance of lifecourse patterns for healthy ageing in Europe, as measured by the Global Activity Limitation Indicator (GALI) and using seven waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Employment and family histories are identified through sequence analysis and used as predictors, together with childhood conditions, in multivariate ordered logistic models covering a sample of 15,952 participants aged 60–65 years. The results showed that ‘non-standard’ employment and family patterns hamper healthy ageing and that these negative effects tend to reinforce each other across the employment and family domains rather than compensating for each other – especially in women. Welfare states, however, moderate these associations. The findings promote the adoption of a lifecourse approach to healthy ageing that considers multiple domains simultaneously and addresses unfavourable life conditions as early as possible in an attempt to mitigate their effects.
The COVID-19 pandemic foregrounded a numerical conception of age. Many of the targets of proposals to introduce age-specific restrictions are members of the ‘baby boomer’ generation, a generation that is widely recognised as having a youthful approach to ageing. Attending to arguments that baby boomers are a ‘bridging’ generation – i.e. they share cultural orientations with both preceding and succeeding generations – we argue that ‘bridging’ is a dynamic practice. Drawing on repeat interviews with 45 ‘war baby’ and baby boomer women conducted prior to the pandemic and shortly after the first national lockdown, the paper demonstrates how lockdown restrictions brought to light older women's relationships to, and investments in, spatial mobilities. We focus on how they experienced and understood (im)mobilities in three realms: home life, going places and social connection. Pre-pandemic, mobilities in each of these realms had been important to how the women established youthfulness and resisted being seen as ‘old’; mobilities helped older women ‘bridge’ with younger adult generations. This bridging was undermined practically, symbolically and discursively by their experiences of the lockdown, with profound consequences for perceptions of their ageing. Restrictions on spatial mobilities created conditions for older women to reassess and narrate the social world in generational terms. Their narratives provide an illuminating case study of the complex ways that generational cohort shapes experiences and self-understandings. We argue that the capacity of baby boomers to ‘bridge’ dynamically is a legacy of their youth.
Until now, the body image literature has largely ignored older men. In particular, little is known about how older men perceive and experience their ageing bodies, despite the importance of the body to men's practice of masculinity and their position within gendered hierarchies. Addressing this gap in the research, we conducted 15 in-depth interviews and ten focus group discussions (N = 60) with older men aged 60–82 years. Drawing upon the intersectionality approach and Bourdieu's theory of practice, we examined how older men with low socio-economic status give meaning to their ageing bodies in relation to ideals of masculinity. The findings suggest that body strength is vital capital for older men with low socio-economic status, and that changes in their bodies as they age affect their ability to actualise themselves as ‘real’ men and undermine their sense of masculinity. The inability to live up to masculine ideals left most of these men feeling inadequate and ashamed. The findings further reveal that stress caused by ageing bodies, exacerbated by older men's socio-economic conditions, constituted a threat to their survival and overall wellbeing. Interventions should take older men's perceptions of and adaptations to the ageing body into account. In addition, when designing interventions for older men, practitioners should consider the socio-economic and cultural context in which older men are embedded. Particularly important is a gender-transformative intervention that raises awareness of negative masculine norms.
Widowhood is often described through stereotypes and images of passive, weak, lonely and dependent women. This study presents additional aspects of widows who have chosen to continue their lives without a new spouse. It thus joins the recently growing body of knowledge which presents widowhood in a less one-dimensional way while referring to the complexity and different layers of widows' lives. A qualitative study was conducted with 30 women aged 63–87 who had been widows for 1–34 years. The findings showed that the dominant experience shared by all women is one of liberation and freedom – a feeling of independence that is expressed socially, personally and economically. Thus, alongside feelings of loneliness and adaptation difficulties, they also experience strength and empowerment. The term ‘gender contract’ serves as a theoretical explanation of the independence narrative that characterises the widows; the termination of the couple's gender contract allows them to redefine their priorities, identify themselves as active instead of passive figures and create for themselves a place of their own. By bringing widowhood to the centre of the discussion, the study gives legitimacy to a discourse on feelings less spoken about, such as relief, freedom and independence. In this way, the study contributes to the ongoing debate on widows by shattering the accepted myth of widows as vulnerable, weak and dependent but without underestimating the difficulties or ignoring the women's diversity.
Purpose in life has been found to decline from middle to later life in several ageing studies. Because the decline has negative impacts on health-related outcomes, it is important to identify factors contributing to purpose in life to enhance wellbeing among the ageing population. This study first examined the role of subjective social economic status (SSES) in the relationship between age and purpose in life. Subsequent analyses estimated whether the construct Artistic Creativity as a Source for Meaning in Life (ACASMIL) played a role in cultivating purpose in life among ageing individuals. Moreover, the analyses determined whether this effect was strengthened by creative self-concept (i.e. self-conviction about personal identity and self-efficacy in the global domain of creativity). Results from a sample of 224 individuals from middle to third age (mean age = 54.08, standard deviation = 10.08, range = 40–84) revealed that the relationship between age and purpose in life was only positive among those with relatively high SSES, controlling for gender and country of residence. Controlling for gender, country of residence, age and SSES, it was found that ACASMIL did not play a mediator role. Moreover, creative self-concept played a moderator role in the relationship between artistic creativity and ACASMIL. However, this moderation effect of creative self-concept was negative. Implications and suggestions for future directions are discussed.
This qualitative study draws attention to the symbolic value of driving or having a valid driver's licence among older adults as part of their impression management. While several studies have focused on driving behaviour, safety, risk factors and not least the consequences of driving cessation, the present study from the Faroe Islands contributes to the body of knowledge concerning older adults and driving by bringing an impression management lens to this issue. Social constructionism formed both the theoretical and methodological approach and data came from interviews with three couples and eight individuals in their eighties. All the male participants still had their driver's licence and were active drivers except for one. Among the women, four had driver's licences and three were active drivers. Our findings point to the necessity of understanding the reluctance to give up driving as being not only related to quality of life, mobility and independence, but also being highly related to preserving one's identity as a competent and ‘not that old’ person. Contrary to common prejudices against older drivers, the findings also showed that these participants reported self-regulation adjustments to continue driving safely. The study indicates a need to support older drivers to continue driving if they wish to do so. It is not only a question of mobility or being independent, but also related to preserving one's social identity in later life.
Companion animals, or ‘pets’, are integral to many people's lives and to their sense of home. However, older people living with companion animals are vulnerable to separation from their animals when moving to a care home. Such separation is often a highly significant loss which, combined with other losses, may reinforce experiences of dislocation. Existing research draws attention to the importance of developing a sense of ‘home’ in a care home through reinforcing and preserving personal connections. However, there is a paucity of research examining the preservation of connections between older people resident in care homes and their animal/s. This study draws on thematic analysis of 29 qualitative interviews with older people living in care homes, relatives, care home staff and other relevant stakeholders. It highlights that retaining existing, often long-term, bonds with companion animals represent important continuities and connections which may contribute to positive adjustment to life in a care home and creating a sense of home. However, participants highlighted that supporting an older person to move into a care home with their companion animal may be challenged by real or perceived constraints such as use of shared space, concerns about the risks posed by animals and staff implications. While our study found examples of good practice of how shared residence between an older person and companion animal can be achieved in a care home, other examples highlighted that the time, complexity of planning and structures required to accommodate animals were prohibitive to merit a change of policy and practice. Our research concludes that more attention should be given to the older person–animal bond as an important source of continuity and connection.
Successful ageing continues to be a key theme in contemporary ageing discourses, where good physical and cognitive health in older age is an individualised responsibility. This paper explores how Australian aged care stakeholder discourse contributes to constructions of self-responsibility for brain health and dementia prevention in older persons. Brain health advice messages about diet, exercise and ‘brain fitness’ by aged care stakeholders are argued to construct a moral framework of ‘brainwork practices’ to prevent or delay dementia. This study performed discourse analysis of a sample of public online aged care stakeholder documents (N = 170) to reveal three key concepts in discursive constructions of dementia. The first concept characterises dementia as a disastrous force to be opposed; the second is a biomedical concept of dementia as preventable (or able to be delayed) in a ‘successful’ older age, while the third reflects neurocultural ideas that fetishise perfect memory as the best defence against cognitive decline and dementia. Identifying this matrix of responsibilising ‘brainwork practices’ messages by aged care stakeholders makes a contribution within social gerontology to revealing neoliberal conceptions of older age as an outcome of lifestyle and consumer choices, where dementia is constructed as ‘failed’ or ‘unsuccessful’ ageing.
Late-life divorce is increasingly common in many Western countries, however, studies on this transition remain scarce. The purpose of this article is to study attributed reasons for late-life divorce, and if any life phase-typical aspects can be identified in these attributions. Qualitative interviews were carried out with Swedish men and women aged 62–82, who after the age of 60 had divorced from a cross-gender marital or non-marital co-habiting union (N = 37). The results, analysed using principles from Grounded Theory, revealed four different types of narratives: (a) incompatible goals for the third age, (b) personality change caused by age-related disease, (c) a last chance for romance, and (d) enough of inequality and abuse. A central insight and an original contribution generated by the study was the importance grey divorcees attributed to the existential conditions of later life in their divorce decisions. The results are discussed in relation to theories of late modern intimacy and the third age.