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This article contributes to ongoing discussions about frailty and vulnerability in critical gerontology by asserting that possibilities to engage and enact influence in everyday life situations is a crucial dimension of democracy in later life. We discuss how democracy in this sense can be threatened for older persons for whom health and social care services are needed, following from the labelling practices of frailty and the non-recognition of the social processes that set capabilities in motion. We utilise three examples grounded in research with older persons in their home environment in a Swedish context. The examples show how older people use creative, emotional, practical and social resources to integrate activities in a manner that address their needs and capabilities, and influence the situations in direction towards how and when to be engaged in everyday activities. Based on a discussion of the examples, we argue that health and social care services that provide and build social infrastructures need to recognise the potential concurrency of interdependency, vulnerability and agency within older persons’ local everyday practices. This to address capabilities and enable concrete expression of democracy in everyday situations. Overall, we suggest that conceptual and methodological shifts in research, as well as policy and practice, are needed to bring democratic processes forward through the relational and situated aspects of resources, agency and influence.
Because of the exacerbation of population ageing, more family members are involved in the informal care-giving for older adults with disabilities to cater to their long-term care needs. As informal care-givers are associated with the mental health of the care recipient, this study, based on the theoretical framework of the Actor–Partner Effect, utilises a mixed method composed of quantitative and qualitative strategies to identify the relationship among gender and type of both care-giver and care recipient, and mental health of the recipient and explain its internal mechanism. In the quantitative research, ordinary least squares (OLS) regression results based on the basis of the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) data corroborate the existence of actor and partner effects within the care-giving dyad. The qualitative analysis further explains the socially constructed differences in gender role, trust relationship and perception towards filial piety of adult care-givers playing their role in the emergence of the Actor–Partner Effect. Finally, this study proposes a developed Actor–Partner Effect analysis framework, advocating to destigmatise disability and construct social support networks for the older adults with disabilities who receive informal care to promote their mental health based on the reflection of socially constructed gender difference.
Much research is conducted to evaluate digital-based solutions for health-care services, but little is known about how such evaluations acknowledge diversity in later life. This study helps fill this gap and analyses participation in the evaluation of a web-based mobile phone system for monitoring the post-operative progress of patients after day surgery. Participation is conceptualised as resulting from three processes: pre-screening, recruitment and self-selection. Based on field information and survey data, this study models (a) the (non-)participation in a sample of 498 individuals aged 60 and older that includes non-screened, non-recruited, decliners and participants in the evaluation, and (b) the individual decision to participate in a sample of 210 individuals aged 60 and older who were invited to take part in the evaluation. Increasing age enhances the likelihood of not being screened, not being recruited or declining the invitation. Those not recruited were most often ineligible because of technology-related barriers. Decliners and participants differed by age, gender, job, health status, digital skills, but not by social participation. Results suggest that highly specific groups of older people are more likely to be involved than others. Old-age diversity is not properly represented in digital health research, with implications for the inclusivity of new digital health technologies. This has implications for increased risks of old-age exclusion and exacerbation of social and digital inequalities in ageing societies.
Volunteering is a popular activity among middle-aged and older adults as means to contribute to the society and to maintain personal health and wellbeing. While the benefits of volunteering have been well-documented in the current literature, it does not tend to distinguish between various types of volunteering activities. This cross-sectional study aims to compare the effects of instrumental (e.g. food preparation, fundraising) and cognitively demanding volunteering activities (e.g. befriending, mentoring) in a sample of 487 middle-aged and older Hong Kong Chinese adults. Participation in instrumental and cognitively demanding volunteering, life satisfaction, depressive symptoms, cognitive functioning and hand-grip strength were measured. The results of two-way between-subject robust analyses of variance demonstrated significant main effects of volunteering type and their interaction effect with age on life satisfaction and depressive symptoms. Comparisons among four volunteering groups (no volunteering, instrumental volunteering, cognitively demanding volunteering and both types) revealed that individuals engaging in instrumental volunteering exhibited lower life satisfaction and more depressive symptoms compared to those who engaged in cognitively demanding volunteering and those who did not volunteer at all. This detrimental pattern of instrumental volunteering was only seen in middle-aged adults, but not in older adults. Findings of this study revealed distinctive effects of two volunteering types, and provide valuable directions for designing future volunteering programmes.
The present article aims to highlight methodological aspects related to understanding and conceptualising social capital for the purposes of population research as well as describing the key challenges in the harmonisation process of indicators of social capital. The study was conducted in the frame of the Ageing Trajectories of Health: Longitudinal Opportunities and Synergies (ATHLOS) project. After a review of social capital theories developed in social science and a subsequent review of the documentation of 18 international cohorts, decision trees of the harmonisation of social variables were developed. The known-group validity was verified. The results focused on generalised trust, civic engagement and social participation are presented. The summary of the availability of any indicators of these concepts is classified in seven domains (generalised trust, political participation, religious participation, senior-specific participation, participation in sport groups, participation in volunteer/charity group activities, any participation) across surveys. The results of the analysis for known-group validity support the construct validity of the harmonised variables.
The present study was focused on the relationship between the subjective assessment of physical health and satisfaction with life (SWL) in older adults. The relationship itself was found in previous studies, but we postulated that it is moderated by ego-resiliency (ER). To verify this hypothesis, 124 Polish participants aged between 60 and 89 (mean = 71.72, standard deviation = 7.08) were asked to complete questionnaire measures of: self-assessed health (SAH; measured with seven items from the World Health Organization Quality of Life WHOQOL-BREF assessment), SWL (measured with the Satisfaction with Life Scale) and ER (measured with the Ego-Resiliency Scale ER89). The results confirmed the moderating role of ER by showing that the relationship between SAH and SWL was statistically significant only when ER was high or moderate, while there was no relationship for participants with low ER. To interpret these results, we postulate that ego-resilient older adults are more accurate in the assessment of health, i.e. their SAH reflects the objective condition more closely, which strengthens the relationship between SAH and wellbeing. ER is thus conceived as an important psychological resource that promotes the accuracy of SAH and, consequently, makes it a more robust predictor of SWL. We hypothesise that this is based on the positive relationship between ER and wisdom in older adults.
The existing research tries to understand the reasons for discontinuing sex in later life with the assumption that people want to be sexual. Although the growing body of literature informs that sex remains an integral part of older adults’ lives, a substantial number of older adults declare not being sexually active. This study aimed at exploring motives for deliberately choosing sexual inactivity among older women. Semi-structured interviews with 16 Polish women (aged 65–82) were thematically analysed in relation to the sexual scripts theory and the participants’ specific socio-cultural background. Three main themes regarding the reasons for cessation of their sex life were identified: ‘I am glad that sex does not concern me anymore’, ‘I am satisfied with my memories’ and ‘The right one’ or no one. The results indicate that some women give up sex for good, with no regrets or feeling of a loss; for others, it may be a temporary decision, its duration dependent on meeting the right partner. Developing sexual agency may encourage discontinuing their sex life – a choice perceived as optimal and liberating. Personal factors and the memories of marital relationships seem to shape older women's (a)sexual expectations. Acknowledging these nuances may contribute to a better understanding of older women's sexual functioning; implications for consideration in further research and practice are also discussed.
The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of loneliness among older people and to identify risk factors for loneliness in a Nordic regional context over a six-year period. Longitudinal data from the Gerontological Regional Database (GERDA) study of 4,269 older adults living in northern Sweden and western Finland, aged 65, 70, 75 and 80 at baseline in 2010, were analysed. Logistic regressions were used to analyse socio-demographic, social and health-related risk factors at baseline and changes in these for experiences of loneliness at follow-up. The results showed that most older adults (85%) did not experience loneliness at baseline or at follow-up in our study region. However, 3 per cent of the sample reported loneliness in both study years, indicating enduring and chronic loneliness. Analyses revealed that being widowed and becoming a widow/er as well as poor self-rated health at baseline and the onset of depression were risk factors for loneliness. Finally, the risk of loneliness was higher in older people living in Sweden. Further work is needed to explore changes and stability in loneliness as well as to increase our understanding of between-country differences in loneliness.
In order to capture the rapidly changing reality of older workers, it is important to study retirement not as a one-off transition, but rather as a series of diverse pathways that unfold during the period before and after reaching the full retirement age. The retirement transitions of men and women have been shown to vary widely according to individual characteristics such as health, education and marital status, but also according to macro-institutional factors, such as welfare regimes and gender norms. While there is a consensus about the combined influence of institutional and individual factors in shaping retirement transitions, previous research has rarely included both levels of analysis. This study aims to close this research gap. Using a pooled-country dataset from three panel surveys, covering 11 nations, we examine the retirement pathways of 1,594 women and 1,105 men during a 12-year period (2004–2016) around the country- and gender-specific full pension age. Results show that retirement pathways diverge considerably across countries and lifecourse regimes. The distribution of men and women between the different pathways is also variable, both within and across societal contexts. More importantly, the influence of individual-level characteristics, such as education, on the gendering of retirement pathways is not identical across societal contexts. These findings provide useful insights into the gender-differentiated implications of policies aimed at extending working lives.
Stringent social restrictions imposed during 2020 to counter the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic could significantly affect the wellbeing and quality of life of people with dementia living in the community and their family carers. We explored the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people with dementia and family carers in England and considered how negative effects might be mitigated. We conducted semi-structured telephone interviews with 11 people with dementia and 11 family carers who were ongoing participants in the IDEAL cohort during the initial ‘lockdown’ period in May and June 2020, and follow-up interviews with five people with dementia and two carers as restrictions were eased in July. We analysed interview data and triangulated the findings with issues raised in dementia-specific online forums. Findings showed some people with dementia were coping well, but others experienced a range of negative impacts, with varying degrees of improvement as restrictions were eased. The need for clear personalised information relating to COVID-19 and the value of support in the form of regular ‘just checking’ phone calls was emphasised. This exceptional situation provides a natural demonstration of how social and psychological resources shape the potential to ‘live well’ with dementia. While some support is recommended for all, a personalised approach to determine needs and coping ability would ensure that further practical and emotional support is targeted effectively.
Although research has shown that older nursing home residents can benefit from caring relationships with nurse aides, few studies have explored their dyadic, evolving relationship dynamics. Using a dyadic perspective, this study simultaneously explores caring relationships among older residents and nurse aides in Shanghai. In a government-sponsored nursing home in Shanghai, 20 matched resident–nurse aide dyads participated in semi-structured, in-depth interviews (N = 40). We performed thematic analysis to interpret and conceptualise the evolving caring relationships within dyads. Four types emerged during the evolution of caring relationships across the 20 dyads: (a) sharing strong rapport, (b) respecting each other, (c) hesitant responding, and (d) keeping emotional distance. Upon placement, all the residents kept emotional distance from nurse aides, and their assigned nurse aides provided care-giving by following nursing home regulations. As time passed, nurse aides began to create a family environment and tried to interact with residents on an emotional level; however, residents’ attitudes varied. The caring relationships in some dyads evolved as rapport and respect emerged, while others remained hesitant and distant. This suggests that residents and nurse aides prioritised caring relationships differently in terms of autonomy preservation and safety protection, respectively. This study sheds light on nursing home practice to facilitate building caring relationships between residents and nurse aides.