Remembering My Hat

3rd August 2016

EuroBiReCon16: Workshop on ageing

This is some notes from a workshop that I co-organised with Sue George and Nickie Roome, as promised to the participants. Our abstract said:

Growing older and being bisexual

What is it like to grow older as a bisexual person? What issues and needs are likely to become more important? How can bisexual and LGBTQ communities be more inclusive of older people? How can research best serve the needs of older bisexual people? This open discussion session will discuss these and other questions related to bisexual ageing. People of all ages are welcome to attend but those who feel these questions have personal relevance are especially welcome. The facilitators of this session are: Sue George, long-time bisexual activist and author of Women and Bisexuality, Nickie Roome, founder of the UK’s first group for older bisexual people and Rebecca Jones who researches and campaigns around ageing and bisexuality.

 

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(cc) photoscarce

It was great to have a room full of people all wanting to discuss ageing – about 25 people in total, I think. We started off with some introductions from Sue, Nickie and me, about why we had wanted to run this workshop. Then we generated some possible topics to discuss and each person voted for their favourite. There were two topics that only one person wanted to talk about (‘being ‘younger’ older’ and ‘working with existing organisations for older people’) so those people chose a second topic. This left us with four topics:

  • Making bi space more age-inclusive
  • Identity and history
  • Sexuality, sex and ageing
  • Inter-generational issues

I took some brief notes while listening in on the groups, and also as each group fed back to the whole group. But if anyone who was in one of the groups would like to add more detail so we have a better record, that would be great – just let me know.

Making bi space more age-inclusive: This group talked about recognising the resources that older bisexual people can offer to bisexual communities and individuals. These resources include both personal experience gained through having lived a relatively long time and also, sometimes, long experience of activism and organising community events. This group also talked about the importance of recognising and acknowledging different choices of identity labels.

Identity and history: This group talked about painful personal experiences of their bisexuality not being accepted by others. They commented that it seemed to be very different for (some) young women now, with ‘bi-curious’ and similar identities seeming to be much more common. They noted that this new acceptability of female bisexuality is often very sexist and thought that we would really know that bisexuality had become acceptable once more men felt able to claim it.

Sexuality, sex and ageing: This group discussed the invisibility and taboos around later life sexuality and sexual activity. They felt that this did harm to both ageing individuals and to younger people and communities more widely. They also talked about significant age differences between partners seeming to become more taboo in later adult life, and about the possibility of intimacy becoming more important than sex for some people. They also discussed coming out in later life, dating apps and the impact of parenting on sexuality.

Inter-generational issues: This group started off by discussing some hurtful personal experiences of being excluded from an LGBT group on the grounds of age, because older bisexual men were seen as sexually predatory. It then went on to talk about experiences of ageism in both directions – from older people towards younger as well as vice versa. The group talked about the way in which someone’s ‘length of being out’ age may not match their chronological age. It suggested running workshops on inter-generational issues at future BiCons and other bi gatherings.

 

smaller sunset amsterdam

“Sunset over Amsterdam” (cc) by Peter Eijkman

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20th July 2016

Looking Both Ways: At last some real-life case studies about older bisexual(ish) people!

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Case studies about people are great, in education and in workplace settings. They help you think about complex issues in a human and manageable way. They can make abstract ideas concrete and graspable. People generally like to read them, which is half the battle as an educator or trainer.

Training and education for health and social care sector workers often uses case studies, and within my particular specialist area – the ageing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people – there are some brilliant case studies where people’s individual stories powerfully make the case for why sexuality and gender identity continue to matter in later life. But, until now, there’s been a bit of a shortage of case studies about bisexual older people (and there is still a shortage for trans older people). There are a few but usually only focusing on the person’s same-sex relationships, not on what it means to have had relationships with more than one gender.

Some sort of flag

(cc) Peter Salanki

So about three years ago, I and two colleagues – Kathryn Almack and Rachael Scicluna –  cresting a wave of enthusiasm at a seminar on bisexual ageing in the Minding the Knowledge Gaps ESRC series, decided to do something about this. We set out to interview people aged over 50 who either identified as bisexual, or had bisexual pasts but didn’t now describe themselves as bisexual. We only had little bits of money to enable various parts of the study, so it took us two years to gather 12 interviews but we’re really pleased to now be able to present the case studies within a short report.

The people we talked to probably aren’t representative of older people with bisexual histories or identities – we don’t actually know what older bi(ish) people are like, as there’s been so little research with this group but the people who took part in this study were all white and predominantly middle class and well-educated.

The report and the case studies are copyright, but with a creative commons BY licence which means that anyone can reuse and rework them, as long as you acknowledge the original source. We hope that they are useful and would love to hear any feedback.

You can download the Looking Both Ways Report online version here. BiUK have kindly paid for some print copies as well, so I can send these out to individuals (but don’t have enough for mass mailings). I’ll be bringing some along to EuroBiReCon as well.

 

 

 

30th October 2015

CABS/CPA seminar on Social Media & Research in Ageing: Part 3

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Ian Watson, Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services

Research unbound: Finch, open access and social media

Examples of ways new technologies always disrupt existing social norms and business models (telephone: people bothering you right in your house! Uber and taxis. Air B&B. High street travel agents. Napster and now Spotify)

Academic publishing is no exception. Except possibly more stuck in the past to start with.

Dame Janet Finch – Finch Report 2012. How to make publically funded research free to the public who funded it. Promise was all available by 2014. Has it happened?

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(cc Mark Colllton)

New scheme ‘Access to Research’ from Feb 2014 for 10 million academic articles. But you can only see abstracts online, have to go to a physical library which is part of the scheme to actually download the article. Old fashioned business model.

Adding ‘google juice’ – blogging about your research increases impact [indeed]. But doesn’t help if people then can’t get the article. Institutional repositories are not easy to search [I think the OU’s is okay, but I’m very familiar with it, of course] [Also, I think another problem is that the form of many academic articles is so unfriendly to non-academics]

Their project ‘Research Unbound’ – blogging platform using WordPress. Peer support, improving quality from feedback en route.

Who? What? What? = Who are you communicating with? What do you want them to hear? Then what you do you want them to do about it?

Brevity is really important. The Economist magazine has really useful style guides.

Will be written up later today here with links: blogs.iriss.org.uk/socialmedia

[This is all getting very meta]

CABS/CPA seminar on Social Media and Research in Ageing: Part 2

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Prof Shailey Minocha, OU

A case study-based investigation of experiences of people aged 65 years and over with online social interactions

What she has learned about conducting research with older people, as a relative newcomer to the field. Three projects:

  1. 2012 project online social interactions of people over 65
  2. Social isolation and loneliness in MK for people 55+  (not just digital inclusion but including that) -funding from MK council. There’s a link between digital inclusion and social inclusion.
  3. Intergenerational photo-journal site – Blipfoto

Has learned not to use term ‘older people’ but to specify ‘over 55’ or ‘over 65’

Has also learned how important and hard it is to create an authentic researcher identity by email, as people are very suspicious.

People don’t always want sensitive things recorded – two researchers means can do fieldnotes together afterwards.

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(cc) Robin Hutton

Case study of 90 yr old suddenly on line via tablet – says has changed her life, enabled her to keep learning, which she values highly.

ONS stats show older people are going online more, but not necessarily staying online – lapsed users about 6% v. 0.9% younger people.

One-off training not enough – needs continuing support – drop-in groups very useful. Training on specific programmes is not useful if that’s not what people want to do. Training needs to be personalised to what people actually want to do online [hot news!]

‘Digital by default’ is problematic because older people more likely to find captcha etc. authentication difficult to see and may not know how to enlarge screen. Screenreaders don’t always work well.

Increasingly people are using tablets rather than pcs

People preferring content within the email, not as an attachment, because people worry about viruses in attachments – not behind university firewalls!

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(cc) Thomas Hawke

Blipfoto research – one photo per day (no more) + quite extensive commentary on their day often. Lots of people using them to stay in touch with faraway family. Reciprocal commenting on each others photos. Some technical advice, some comments on content of photos.

19 age 55+ users comments on what it means to them:

  • keeping brain active (about half said this) Quite hard to take a good and interesting photo everyday
  • Encourages you to go out, gives structure to day, makes you notice things more

People have fears about loss of anonymity, trolling, addiction, reducing motivation to get out of the house – making them more isolated. But also value very highly for social connections

Excellent story about older woman with motion sensors in sofa – realised family and carers weren’t visiting her so much, because sofa was telling them she was moving around = fine. So she sat still a lot, until they called! They adjusted their arrangements.

Blipfoto older people users using facebook, but quite passively to see what family members are doing. Using Flikr more, to post photos in excess of the daily limit of one on Blipfoto.

[Audience discussion of dangers of online]

Comment from Jonathan Hughes: Dangers of talking about other people, but this is us! Lots of us in this room are aged over 55, we use these kinds of websites.

Question from Geraldine Boyle: demographics? Middle class?

Answer: was international. Don’t know – was an opportunistic sample. Only asked about age, country and length of years using site.

Comment from Joyce Cavaye: Problems with care homes not having wifi or not having staff time to support residents with online use, even when they have run training for residents on using tablets etc.

CABS/CPA seminar on Social Media and Research in Ageing

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30th October 2015, The OU Camden, London

My usual partial and incomplete liveblog notes from a seminar. Not necessarily a representation of what speakers said or meant, just the things that interested me. [My own thoughts in square brackets like this]

 

Lara Crisp, Editor, Gransnet

Older people and the internet: Challenging misconceptions

Gransnet started 2011, as spin off from Mumsnet

Busiest social networking site for over 50s, especially forums [reflecting and perpetuating association of older women and grandparenting]

Content is user-generated – editors mostly just tweak what people are saying in forums

 

 

(I chose this picture over the more obvious logo because of the genderqueering, obviously)

940,000 page impressions per month last month

120,000 unique users

10 mins dwell time (about double the average for this kind of site) [but is this just because it takes

9 pages per visit

12.6k followers on Facebook, 17.4 on Twitter, 16.2 on Pinterest, 36.5K on Google Plus. Twitter and Facebook are especially lively

On forums, people mostly don’t like terms ‘older person’ or ‘silver surfer’. Old age is roughly 10 yrs older than they are. Discussion of meanings of ageing. Don’t want to be talked to as an older person (stairlifts, pensions, funeral plans) If they want info on those kind of things, they will go and find it, they don’t want it pushed at them. Did a page recently on how not to advertise to older people

  • 95% female
  • average age 61
  • 55% retired
  • 56% look after grandchildren at least once a month
  • 50% shop online monthly or more.
  • Predominantly middle classs but ‘thrifty’ in terms of shopping – generational effect?

Did have a ‘Grandad’s shed’ forum but got rid of it because decided was too segregating [ha! Classic dilemma]

Reasons for visiting in popularity order:

  1. Competitions
  2. Information
  3. Forums
  4. Books
  5. Advice
  6. Health
  7. Humour
  8. Recipes

Her sense is that Gransnet helps people to manage the transition into retirement, when previously working women loose the day-to-day contact with colleagues. Dealing with menopause is another lifestage big issue that generates a lot of talk.

How gransnetters access the site has changed – now much more likely to access on Tablets and phones, to detriment of desk top. Although desktop still most common, just.

Other social media that Gransnetters use:

  1. Facebook 76%
  2. Twitter 38%
  3. Pinterest 23%
  4. LinkedIn 22% (not surprising when think that many are not retired)
  5. Google+ 13%

Long-distance grandparenting is a bit of a catch phrase on the forums. Lots of people with children and grandchildren elsewhere in the world or not nearby.

Did some work via a London borough library about helping older people get online.

How things have changed:

  • Forums are busier but also more animated – more debate, less tiptoing around
  • More are using other social media platforms – peer-to-peer recommendations and mediations helping this
  • Much more online shopping – click thrus from site + talk on forums about offers
  • Exploring other platforms – starting to do more on YouTube
  • Core users still with them. 30 or 40 people who are online most days.

[Interesting discussion of the name excluding older people without children, when content isn’t mostly specific to grandparents or even grandmothers. But it’s a really strong brand, so don’t want to lose it]

My Q: Why do you think the tone of the forums is more supportive and less combative than much social media (including Mumsnet)? Is it a generational effect or is it about being relatively novice users of social media, so still being relatively polite?

Joyce Cavaye: It might be about how the tone is set initially by the first users of the site, continues afterwards

Lara: Might also be about smaller size then Mumsnet – any bust ups get spotted and moderated or mediated by other users more quickly?

24th April 2014

BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 4): Baby boomers + ‘quick and dirty’ research

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Jennie Bristow, Kent

The Baby Boomer generation and the problem of knowledge

How has the baby boomer generation come to be constructed as a social problem in Britain today?

3 books came out in 2010 doing this, most influential David Willets’ The Pinch’, right wing perspective. Francis Beccket ‘What did the babyboomers ever do for us. ‘Jilted Generation’

Babyboomers hed responsible for a wide range of social problems – economic crisis (demographic size + bad political decision = Tony Blair), housing shortage, pensions and healthcare, lifestyles, values and cultural change, and young people’s inablity to grow up (including because they can’t afford to buy houses).

Boomer-blaming transcends left-right divisions and also generational differences (baby boomers themselves and younger people [what about those older than the baby boomers?]

Did media analysis of 4 national newspapers in 6 date periods, mid 80s – present day, using term ‘baby’ and ‘boomer’. Analysed 200+ articles in depth.

Increased mention over time (also on Google Ngram)

Not always negative discussion – often quite positive, especially around time of election of Bill Clinton.

How boomers were defined varied depending on the problem that was being articulated. – one bulge or two. If talking about demographic problems, tend to define widely as born 1945-65. But if talking about cultural change, really mean people graduating from university in about 1969.

Used Qualitative Media Analysis – aiming to take acount of social contexts in which texts are created (e.g. election of Bill Clinton)

Mannheim 1922/28 on sociology of generations

Cultural problem – failure to preserve welfare state (left wing) or self-indulgent individualism like Tony Blair (right wing)

By 2006 beginning of hardening of narraive of baby boomers as a problem (n.b. before the financial crisis). Prompted by retirement of the first baby boomers. ‘Boomergeddon’. Demographic problems, but culturally morally loaded through talk of 60s barminess.

Can’t win – if look after your health, you’ll live longer, which makes you even more of a problem!

A new generationalism? Trying to create generationally based social divisions?

Historically, younger generations have criticised older generations for being set in their ways. But here we see baby boomers saying that they went too far, shouldn’t have changed things so much. [Very interesting!]

Idea of babyboomers originally came from US, which is why it doesn’t actually map very well on to UK demographics.

This is an elite idea that has become popular through the media, not a grassroots one. Thinks most people’s actual experience is not of intergenerational conflict but of mutual support with significant transfers of wealth down the generations.

 

Hannah Jones, Warwick

Urgent! Reflections on doing ‘quick-and-dirty’ research, and on sociology and social action.

Danger of it just being descriptive, but that’s also a danger with slow research. Difficulty of taking historical and wider perspective – only if you don’t already know the literature.

Back and Puwar (2012) A manifesto for live methods.

Can use quick sociological methods to have political effects – quick survey they did in response to ‘Go Home’ immigration vans. But harder to have sociological effects with quick research? She thinks not.

Amphibious sociology – Lury 2013

 

 

 

22nd October 2013

(a)Dressing the Ageing Demographic seminar: Part 1

Last Friday I went to a seminar at the Royal College of Art about clothes and growing older. It was fantastic. Really stimulating and interesting, and even more fun that usual in the coffee breaks noticing what everyone was wearing! I met up with some people I already knew and am always glad to see and also got to know some new ones, including the journalist who writes the Guardian’s Invisible Woman blog about clothing, body image and getting older. I also admired a very beautiful and stylish older women and said to someone else that I aspired to look like her in 40 years time. Then I discovered she was, in fact, a model (and still working as such, I think) and decided that was probably an unrealistic hope.

What follows is my usual idiosyncratic and incomplete notes from the day, with my own additional thoughts in square brackets.

(cc) Brian J Matis

Julia Twigg

Fashion and Age: Dres, the Body and Later Life

There’s a persistent normative age ordering of clothes, especially for women. Largely expressed negatively – what is not suitable for someone as they grow older

–        More covered up, higher necks, longer skirts, looser cut

–        Darker, duller colours

–        Sober self-effacing, avoiding claims to sexual attention

Can see this in those Scandinavian life stage pictures, as well as nowadays.

But these cultural factors are also in interplay with changes in the body

SizeUK did a literal ‘shape of the nation’ survey. New shape much more realistic for older women. Used by some retailers.

JT drawing on Barnard on ways gender and class are seen as natural but actually ideological, to theorise dress as also ideological.

There’s a dominant cultural narrative that this age ordering is gone or is going or has lessened. ‘60 is the new 40’. In academia sometimes called the reconstitution of ageing thesis. Older people argued to now be nearer the mainstream than they used to be. New pattern of the life course – extended mid-life up to 4th Age. More undifferentiated middle years.

Showed that Posy Simmons cartoon of ‘A lifetime of babywear: The Seven Ages of Man’ – wearing teeshirt and shorts at all life stages.

Making the point that men’s clothes don’t change across the lifecourse. But you can also see in the cartoon the way that clothes are tweaked by clothes designers to make the same garment age-appropriate – elasticated waists at youngest and oldest ages, not in mid-life

So does age ordering still operate?

Women in JT’s study were aware of age ordering and largely obeyed it – stressed need for caution, avoiding exposing body, over young or girly styles, frilly clothes, anything eye-catching.

‘The wardrobe moment’ when women feel they can no longer wear a particular thing [I had one of those when I was coming up to 40. Not so much since but that could be because I’ve adapted my wardrobe in accordance with age orderings?]

Sense of exile from cultural practices of feminity, or feminity itself

But also evidence of change. Felt wore very different clothes from their mothers. Keen to avoid drab, chintz and crimplene especially!

Clothing retailers also believe things have changed. Asda – 30 yrs ago people would switch to ‘classic’ clothing at a life point, no more. Older women now wear brighter, fresher colours. Ranges for older women marked by use of strong clear colours. E.g. celebs like Mary Berry

Larger retail context to this – arrival of cheap Fast Fashion – late 20th and 21st C. True democratisation of fashion – greater than 19th C or mid 20th C one, arguably. People shop more often – over 75s now shop for clothes as often as teens and twenties in e. 1960s. Clothes are cheaper, still remain accessible if on lowish income in later life.

‘Moving Younger’. Clothes as aspirational – dream of idealised self, younger, thinner, richer, smarter. Consumption of clothes allows this. So retailers persistently portray their clothes as aimed at a younger market than they know their customers actually are.

Style diffusion. Youth has replaced class as the engine for style diffusion. No longer introduced by elites and then abandoned by them as taken up by lower classes. Not so much that older people are dressing younger, but that styles are diffusing older – centre of fashionability is youth, edges is older.

Age norms and age ordering still exist. Continue to encode ageist meanings

But also clear evidence for change – norms are shifting. Fashion industry is playing a part in this shift.

Discussion:

These covered up styles for older women is because of stigmatisation and fear of older bodies

Rise of ‘shapewear’ – new forms of corsetry. Can now get it extending to arms!

JT: one respondent felt could do longer wear girly styles she liked, but always wore coloured, girly underwear as form of secret resistance.

1st October 2013

International Day of Older Persons: Why I am hesitant about simply ‘celebrating’ the day

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Since 1990, the UN has designated 1st October each year as the International Day of Older Persons. Over on Twitter, @LGBTageing asked some of us what we were doing to celebrate the day. This is my somewhat hedged and cautious reply – sorry!

(cc) kslavin

Of course there’s lots of good things about later life and growing older, and it’s really important to resist the common discourses of old age as decline and despair. Celebrating ageing and older people is one way of doing that and it’s an important project that I’m really pleased organisations and individuals are taking on. But I find myself a bit hesitant at writing something simply ‘celebratory’ about older people.

Some of my discomfort about ‘celebrating’ older persons is because I am not yet myself generally categorised as an ‘older person’. Of course, the beauty of the term ‘older person’ is that is is inherently relative – I am older than I was, older than a teenager, older than some of my colleagues – so in that sense everyone is an older person. But the term usually gets used in the UK to refer to people in their 60s, 70s or older. In some contexts, including in the study of non-heterosexual ageing, ‘older’ often includes people in their 50s, but I’m not quite there yet either. Because I’m not yet in that chronological age bracket, for all I recognise the social constructedness of those age categories, it feels to me as if ‘older people’ is other than me. And since I do not feel like an ‘older person’ myself yet, it feels potentially a bit patronising and otherising to ‘celebrate’ older people as a group.

Older people are hugely diverse and people’s experiences of ageing and later life vary enormously. They are far too diverse to be simply ‘celebrated’. The phenomenon of ageing also seems to me to be to be far too complex to be simply a matter of celebration. Ageing is just a thing, it’s neither bad nor good. Of course we’re not starting on a level playing field – ageing is hugely stigmatised and demonised. Therefore I do in practice spend quite a lot of my time talking up the positives of ageing and later life, in an attempt to redress the balance. But, being a contrary sort of person, I find the invitation to celebrate makes me want to note some of the reasons it’s more complex than that.

As so often when I’m thinking about age, I discover that my colleague and former PhD supervisor, Bill Bytheway, has got there before me. What follows are some extracts from the last page of his 1995 book ‘Ageism’ [1]. He is talking about whether the best way to refute ageism is to be positive about later life. He cites the experiences so many of us have had when we say we work with older people: acquaintances say ‘that must be depressing!’ and the temptation is to reply:

Most elderly people are really nice, absolutely fascinating once you get to know them … The things they say! … Working with them is really interesting … Some of them are real characters!

Instead, Bytheway suggests we should reply:

The people I work with are pretty ordinary. They have lived long lives and survived many experiences. I like working with them because there are things I can do to make life more satisfactory for them. They tell me what they think and I listen to them and sometimes argue. You can learn a lot from ordinary people. I enjoy the work; it’s worth doing.

Bytheway, B. (1995) Ageism Open University Press, Buckingham and Philadelphia.

13th September 2013

BSG 2013, Oxford, Part 2

Partial and personal notes from some parts of this conference. Part one here

Plenary: John Beard, World Health Organisation

Global ageing and health: From talk to action

(cc) US Mission Geneva

Pace of ageing of population much quicker in e.g. Brazil, Thailand than West, so no time to get infrastructure in place.

Pop ageing was initially about more and more people surviving childhood and women childbirth. That ?led to reducing birth rate (+avail of contraception)

Dependency ratios are pretty valid in relation to proportion of children in pop (kids do need lots more care than contribute), but not so much for OP because OP aren’t necessarily, or simplistically, dependent. Changes in behaviour, attitude and policy can reduce dependency effect of ageing pops.

Fab graphs from Mathers et al 2013 on female deaths across the life course – low income countries v. middle v high income. Really clear and interesting graphics [use for K118?]

What is WHO doing about pop ageing? Now a formal priority at WHO, via:

  • Partnerships and political commitment
  • Build evidence base
  • Knowledge translation (evidence into policy and practice)
  1. Health promotion across life course – OP are not too old to change diet, behaviour etc.
  2. Early detection and screening, primary health care and long term care. EoL care.
  3. Age-friendly environments
  4. Rethinking ageing – toss out the stereotypes

Showed a video WHO produced for World Health Day 2012 about challenging stereotypes.  [Nice pictures. Might be a good resource for K118 LG13]

People get more diverse as they grow older, especially in terms of physical function (graphs to show across lifecourse. Physical function falls off with age, but range within age cohorts is much bigger). So generalising about later life even more unhelpful.

[Cd do one of those ‘see what the other students thought’ polls on ‘how old is an old person’ or similar, then follow on activity problematizing. Or one of these for awareness of own ageing (similar to K319 but not too similar?)]

Importance of getting beyond demography. Just because societies have pop ageing doesn’t tell us anything. Most healthcare costs are in the last 18 months of life, at whatever age those 18 months occur.

Need to move beyond gerontology and geriatrics as only disciplines that think about later life to include urban planners, architects, designers, technologists, people who make stuff.

Demographer in audience: working now on new ways of doing demography that are less ageist! Better measures.

[I am amused that this kind of thing always happens at academic conferences: speaker somewhat caricatures and demonises some group (in this instance Demographers) and in the questions slot, a member of the group resists and problematises this characterisation. I love academia!]

British Society of Gerontology, 42nd Annual conference, Oxford UK, Part 1

I only attended for one day this year, partly to launch these two books in the CABS/CPA methodology series. One is on Secondary Analysis and the other on working with existing older people’s groups. Both are available from the CPA for a bargainaceous £10 each.

What follows is my usual idiosyncratic note-form post from a conference. As usual, this is in no sense intended to be a complete representation of what any speaker actually said, just some things that I found interesting and managed to capture. Things I thought or things I need to follow up are in square brackets.

Symposium on Ageing and agency: Developing new theoretical perspectives for critical gerontology.

Based on book Ageing, Meaning and Social Structure [investigate for possible K118 Reader chapters]

(cc) crowt59

Amanda Grenier and Chris Phillipson
Agency in the ‘Fourth Age’ (or the problem of ‘Active Ageing’)

Gilleard & Higgs article 2010 Ageing without Agency, Jnl of Aging and Mental Health [find this]: The problem with the notion of the 4th Age is that it becomes a terminal destination, not a life stage or a cohort.

Attempts to give dignity at End of Life have failed because of perception of lack of agency in 4th Age. Assumption that agency is something you either have or don’t, but actually it’s much more complex and nuanced than that.

Grenier 2007 and 2012 discusses ways in which ‘4th Age’ has been used differently (e.g. age 80+ OR intersection of age and impairment OR objective measurement)

If 4th Age is about ‘decline and dependency’, how can you have active agency?
Impairments may make perception of having agency more difficult e.g. verbal / cognitive impairments.

Health and impairment are unhelpfully polarised anyway. 4th Age conceptualised as ageing without agency increases / sustains that.

If agency is increasingly important now that we are all supposed to have individualised post-modern lifecourses, that gets really important for ageing and the fourth age in particular.

Seeing people as having low agency increases their vulnerability to abuse and neglect.

So how can you increase /restore perceptions of agency in 4th Age?

  1. Develop new cultural narratives and frameworks for partic conditions e.g Alzheimers George and Whitehouse 2010 in Handbook – don’t let medical narratives dominate
  2. Agency may look different in later life (active ageing narratives don’t help)
  3. ‘Reduced’ or ‘diminished’ agency might be a better way of thinking about it than ‘present’ or ‘absent’. Also thinking about how it’s being constructed as reduced [that sounds really interesting to me].

Other possible things that might help:

  • Positively look for agency
  • think about inhibiting or encouraging conditions.
  • Allow for more passive and less active notions of agency (structural to personal)
  • Challenge underlying assumption of health.

Contingency rather than ‘lack of agency’ may be better description of late old age.
Settersten & Trauten chapter 2009 in Bengston Handbook of Aging

[There was an excellent moment in the middle of this paper when the presenter, Chris Phillipson, moved his hand into the light stream from the projector and the word ‘agency’ appeared appositely across his gesticulating hand].

 

Jan Baars, University of Humanistic Studies): Agency and Autonomy: Beyond
Independence
Links to old debates on autonomy. Interdependency is more characteristic across life course [could do Activity getting students to think about way they are interdependent with others – leading on to recognition of it being a continuum – wd also help to address worry about otherising OP]

Competency – how tested? What if someone refuses to take test? Are they then seen as incompetent? What about emotional, social, dialogic skills – they are seldom tested in the way that recall is.

Authenticity as a marker of competence – feeling someone is taking decisions that are ‘not like them’

Regarding yrself as having power and competency to make decisions [but this isn’t nec the case for younger people too. Can have life stages when have less at any point]. Ageist practices reduce this.

Suggested better definition of competency: Capacity to make adequate decisions as person sees it, which are responsive to situation and others. [But who gets to define ‘adequate’ and ‘responsive’]
Dignity as another key concept

Return to this in Discussion: is dignity separable from agency? Can you really have dignity if you have ceded control (or had it taken from you)?

 

Joseph Dohmen
Utrecht
Ethics, art of living, lifestyle (also chapter in the book)

Life politics (Beck, Giddens, Bauman) wanting to lead a life of your own
1. A promise,
2. daily struggle,
3. collective experience in Western world,
4. remnant of our communal feeling
(Beck and Beck-Gernsheim)

Martha Holstein 2010 – if autonomy is ultimate good, what does that do for OP?

Agency tends to talk about ‘life choices’ whereas structure more about ‘life chances’

Wants to moralise lifestyle. Make it about more than consumerism and health. Claims ‘lifestyle’ bridges gap b/w structure and agency [the philosopher’s stone! How many different theories are there that claim to bridge the structure / agency gap?!]

  1. Reflective distance – exploring one’s biog and social scope. Taking distance from directions about how you should grow older (e.g. Active Ageing)
  2. Expropriation – trying to relate yrself to yr own biog. Free yrself from own unhelpful influences. Future may restore the past
  3. Appropriation – autonomy as about positive freedom to make substantial choices in later life. Identifying with deepest desires.
  4. Authentic orientation – what makes life really valuable and meaningful. Strong evaluation of this.
  5. Engagement – how and why to (dis)engage. Relational autonomy
  6. Integration – coherence of life: maximal (classically), minimal (liberally or more p-mly), contextually, or not aiming for coherence but reliability in episodic life (Margaret Walker)
  7. The tragic condition – 1-6 are modes of active ageing but life is also passive ageing. The good life is the vulnerable life. Can’t escape in later life. We have to make tragic choices. There are always losses. Our passions can destroy our lives and the lives of others.

Everything in life is finite. This implies continuous dynamic b/w mourning and accepting losses and new beginnings.

Discussion: overlaps with Disability arguments e.g. ‘autonomy’ not as about independence. Also lit on Ethics of Care.

Relational autonomy changes as you age, esp into 4th Age – people don’t understand you, yr partner dies, you are mainly relating to much younger people. So you get less relational autonomy as you grow older. CP- paper by Elder on autonomy across life course. How does agency work in life course transitions? Do you reach a point when you can’t rework your agency?

 

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