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

30th October 2015

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?

28th January 2015

Older LGB&T people: Minding the Knowledge Gaps. Final conference.

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My usual partial and erratic liveblog-ish notes from a seminar. Not a complete record of what’s going on – just the things that interest me [and my own responses in brackets].

Liz Barker: How far we’ve come: Older LGBT rights movement[s?]

Greengross & Greengross (1989)  ‘Living, Loving and Ageing’ called by Daily Mirror a ‘raunchy sex guide for older people’ [Fantastic! It’s just not! I’ve got half a paper written comparing LL&A with modern sex guides for older people. Maybe I should revisit that…] A really important start to awareness about older people’s sexuality in the UK [although academically the interest in older people and sexuality starts earlier with (I think) the Starr-Weiner report]

HIV&AIDS as a catalyst for work around OP’s sexual health, and older LGBT people [as so often – such a mixed blessing – raises awareness of the existence of a group, but in a context where it’s a problem. Like the history of public awareness of bisexuality]

Polari did first research  on LGBT older people (initially on housing options) [again, not sure this is true if you include academic research. When was ‘Gay and Grey’?]

Spark to (then) Age Concern Opening Doors programme was an older gay man who was a carer who was told council couldn’t help him with his partner because his set up wasn’t ‘normal’.

Opening Door report and first seminar in 2001 [I was there. It was great].

Opening Doors didn’t originally include T because they didn’t want to assume issues were the same and their sample was very small and opportunistic [no explanation given for why they didn’t include B. I’m pretty sure the first report was originally called ‘Working with older lesbians and gay men’ which does not include older bi people. I think it later got rebadged as ‘l, g and b’].

Round up of past seminars (various speakers)

1st seminar on bi ageing – made a nice change to be first seminar in a series, given usual erasure of bisexuality within LGBT acronym.

Being told you are too old to be bisexual – that you ought to have made up your mind by now

Intergenerational work with LGBT really adds to diversity and complexity of labels and experiences people have.

Being BME and LGBT can increase visiblity in unhelpful ways (with migration status sometimes as another intersection) – research on Irish Gay men working in England.

Venn diagram – three overlapping circles, older, LGBTQ and BME – that gives you overlaps of older and LGBTQ, LGBTQ and BME and older and BME, with the overlap in the middle of older, BME and LGBTQ. Middle group is relatively small and but can extrapolate from other overlaps (e.g research on LGBT and BME experiences or on older BME people’s experiences). Lack of visible older BME LGBT people is also a problem for younger people who need elders and role models. [Importance of being able to imagine your own ageing].

How and in what circumstances do older LGBT people wish to be visible to H&SC services? [Not always].

Need for staff to know about LGBT history, so they can understand possible fears and reticences.

Shd the focus be on specialist provision or enhancing pracice across the sector? [Both! But if I had to pick one, I think it would be the second]

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.

19th September 2013

Bi Visibility Day: Over-50s event in London

I’m so delighted that this year Opening Doors London and activists from the UK bi community are getting together to organise an event for over-50s as part of Bi Visibility Day, the 23rd Sept (I’m posting a little early, in case it helps publicise the event).

You can get all the details here but I just want to mention their excellent slogan ‘old enough to have made up our minds’.

That’s such a good riposte to the common charge that bisexual people are indecisive and will eventually ‘make up our minds’ and settle for attraction to only one gender, whether that be the same as our own or different. One of the things everyday ageism does is to characterise older people as fixed and rigid in their habits and thinking. But a more positive spin on that is as not-indecisive and as having made up our minds. I love the way this slogan plays with and combines the two.

(cc) salanki

13th September 2013

BSG 2013, Oxford, Part 3

Partial and particularly incomplete notes from a conference. Part one here and part two here

Symposium: Using the Arts to humanise healthcare education about people with dementia

Sherry Dupuis, University of Waterloo, Canada

The pedagogical possibilities of research-based drama in dementia care

Project came out of desire to resist dominant popular discourses of dementia ‘shell of himself’ ‘burden of care’ ‘long goodbye’ ‘36 hour day’ ‘loss of self’ as well as bio-medical versions.

Looking at effects on audience members  – how images and actions changed for families and workers of PWD over a one year period, after seeing film called ‘I’m still here’ – research based drama – script much from transcripts of interviews, result of collaborations with PWD, workers, actors and playwrite.

(cc) Nico Macdonald

Pre and immediately post-performance focus groups (n=106 people)

Interviews 6 weeks and 12 months after viewing (no.s reduced at each stage as you’d expect to 83 at end)

Participants had vivid memories at 6 weeks – feelings of compassion and better understanding of PWD’s perspective. Talked about scenes flickering into their brains months later. Expanded perspective, deepened understanding

Some people felt they are unchanged because already knew this – affirmed their existing awareness. But often in the interview they then went on to talk about ways they had changed [this is surely about face and presenting yourself as a competent member to start with – dynamics of interview].

Some evidence of changed behaviours as a result – family members joking more, recognising humour in situations + focusing more on person, not trying to get other jobs done at the same time. Care workers talked about checking for UTIs more, having a better admission form, running support groups for families.

Cathartic experience for some family members, transformative healing process, emotional release.

DVD and teaching-learning tool available from www.marep.uwaterloo.ca

New study will do observational work in care homes about whether it actually changes care worker’s practices. There is some evidence of practical changes already e.g. policy changes, support group set up etc.

Dialogue with others after the performance was really important for deepening learning.

 

Ruth Bartlett, Univ of Southampton

Agnes & Nancy – a short film about two women with dementia

A documentary film she commissioned. Comes out of her ESRC First Grants study of PWD who are activists and campaigners for dementia (like Terry Pratchett but he didn’t take part!) – ‘No Limits: reimagining life with dementia’. 16 people took part, 11 men, 5 women.

Agnes and Nancy are real people, real names – offered pseudonym but all but 2 didn’t want that – being named and known is part of their activism. Film is available on vimeo or email Ruth and she can also send teaching resources / resource pack for facilitators to use.

Documentary film definition: about real life, but not itself real life. Term first used in 1926.

Health Equity Institute in San Francisco is leader in the field, have 35 documentary films ‘For Health and Social Justice’ made by and for students, incl ‘Old Age is not for Cissies’ about LGBT ageing.

Paper by Aagje Swinnen in The Gerontologist (2013) on dementia in documentary films – way it is always a representation of reality, not always helpful.

Common responses to film:

  • lovely film.
  • But also lots of challenges ‘do they really have dementia?’ – still living quite independently, travelling and so on.
  • It’s about friendship, not demetia
  • ‘She shdnt be allowed to chop wood (one memorable scene)
  • The PWD I support aren’t like Agnes and Nancy

Raises interesting questions about perceived authenticity – if someone doesn’t seem to be behaving like PWD, their illness identity gets challenged.

Bartlett, R (2012) ‘The emergent modes of dementia activism’ Ageing & Society

Interesting discussion among audience about both the importance of positive role models but also the pressure they create for other people who can’t be like that because of physical health, cognitive issues, social class, race etc. Ruth: someone with dementia saying ‘I thought I was doing well’ until they saw the Agnes and Nancy film [gulp!]

Ransackers Association – group for PWD – audience member.

 

Hannah Zeilig, UEA

Descartes: Using the arts to educate the dementia care workforce.

Still no clear regulatory framework for the dementia care workforce.

Staff in care home they worked in initially hostile to word ‘Arts’ and also to researchers, seeing them as ‘experts’ coming in to tell them how to do a job they’d been doing for 20 years.

People usually think of Arts hierarchically: Opera, poetry, classical music, sculpture at top. Pop music, tv, comics, cartoons, as lower, not really Arts even.

Tried to get staff to talk about their feelings about their work (in focus groups). 4 themes emerged:

  • Identity of staff as well as PWD
  • Awareness – how to behave sensitively, how to understand the condition
  • Language and communication. Care home staff refered to themselves as ‘bum-wipers’ and PWD as ‘nutters’ or ‘fruitcakes’. Powerful derogatory language. Invented game ‘word salad’ – magnetic words. As way of conveying that we all struggle with language sometimes
  • Practice of caring – lifting, toileting, moving, feeding.

So then researchers went away to find Arts resources addressing these themes. Everybody on staff wanted music.

[Frustratingly, at this point I had to leave, so I don’t know what happened next! I’m planning to contact the authors to find out though and I’m sure they’d welcome enquiries from anyone else who is interested]

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?

 

8th May 2013

Third Age / Fourth Age: A collection of resources

In the Ageing block of K118 (Perspectives on Health and Social Care) one of the overarching concepts we want students to understand is the notion of the Third Age and the Fourth Age, first popularised by Peter Laslett in his book ‘A Fresh Map of Life: The Emergence of the Third Age’. We’ll then go on to critique it, but before we can do that, they need to understand what it means. Since I’m writing the first week’s work of this block, it falls to me to do that explaining. I’m collecting here some possible resources to help me do that, in case they are also of interest to other people.

Peter Laslett’s book is available on google books, which is better than nothing, although the page you really want is always the one that’s cut out. Luckily for me it’s also in the OU library, so I’m off to pick that up later today. Either the first chapter or one of the later ones looks possible for my use, probably edited down a little.

(cc) EU Social

Book reviews from journals (one of my favourite shortcuts to getting a handle on a literature):

  • Raymond Illsley (1991). Ageing and Society, 11, pp 85­86 doi:10.1017/ S0144686X00003871
  • Jacob S. Siegel Population and Development Review Vol. 16, No. 2 (Jun., 1990), pp. 363-367
  • COLEMAN, PG. BRITISH JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY; FEB, 1992; 83; p153-p157 (This one is an Essay Review which also discusses related books).

Useful looking commentary:

Gilleard, C., & Higgs, P. (2002). The third age: class, cohort or generation? Ageing & Society, 22(03), 369-382:

ABSTRACT: In this paper we consider some of the ways that the third age can be thought about and studied. Taking the work of Peter Laslett as our key source, we explore his ‘aspirational’ approach toward redefining post-working life and look at some of its limitations as both definition and explanation. There is a need for a more sociologically informed approach to the third age, and we outline three potentially important structures that might better explain it – class, birth cohort, and generation. Whilst it might seem attractive to see the third age as a class-determined status, based on the material and social advantages accruing to people who have retired from well-paid positions in society, the historical period in which the third age has emerged makes this explanation less than adequate. Equally a cohort-based explanation, locating the third age in the ‘ageing’ of the birth cohort known as the baby boom generation, fails fully to capture the pervasiveness and irreversibility of the cultural change that has shaped not just one but a sequence of cohorts beginning with those born in the years just before World War II. Instead, we argue for a generational framework in understanding the third age, drawing upon Mannheim rather than Marx as the more promising guide in this area.

International Journal of Ageing and Later Life 2007 2(2): 13–30. The Third Age and the Baby Boomers: Two Approaches to the Social Structuring of Later Life BY CHRIS GILLEARD AND PAUL HIGGS

EXTRACT: Laslett confounded individual development, cohort and period, making the third age seem a phenomenon of personal achievement as much as social transformation. Each of these ingredients is problematic. First, as Thane has pointed out, delineating the various stages of life has a long history and the distinction between a “green” old age and a “frail” old age goes back at least to medieval times (Thane 2003). Secondly, Laslett’s emphasis upon demographic indicators leads him to seek to “date” the emergence of the third age at the point when the majority of a particular birth cohort can expect to reach the age of seventy (Laslett 1989). This “fact” defines the historical period that determines the emergence of a third age. Taken together, this amalgam of individual development, history and demography, though superficially seductive, fails to provide a convincing analysis of the cultural and social transformation of later life that situates it more firmly within post-war consumer culture. This failure of social and cultural analysis leads Laslett to become preoccupied with the moral imperative for older people to become “true” third agers (Laslett 1989)

(cc) Jim Linwood

This article by Peter Laslett, which looked very promising as a summary of the book, is not suitable for my purposes, being too much about demography. I note it here so I remember not to think I’ve found it again:

  • Peter Laslett (1987). The Emergence of the Third Age. Ageing and Society, 7, pp 133­160 doi:10.1017/S0144686X00012538

ERIC MIDWINTER (2005). How many people are there in the third age?. Ageing
and Society, 25, pp 9­18 doi:10.1017/S0144686X04002922

EXTRACT: There has been controversy over Peter Laslett’s designation of a Fourth Age or dependent older age. The question marks over the Fourth Age were that people tended to move in and out of the category, that is, theywere sometimes temporarily incapacitated, while ‘dependence’ is, sadly, a feature in other stages of life. It was also deemed to throw up just that kind of characterisation of older age that has for so long jaundiced public opinion on the very subject of oldness. It should be properly acknowledged that there is another gerontological dispute as to whether or not the extension of people’s lives has been procured at the expense of longer phases of decrepitude and disability. Obviously enough, the ideal is to have an extremely lengthy Third Age and an extremely short Fourth Age – achieving the aphorism of the former manager of Liverpool FC, Bill Shankly, who wished ‘to die healthy’

Probably too hard for Level 1,  and not for this week’s work anyway, but in case it is useful to a colleague:

CHRIS GILLEARD and PAUL HIGGS (1998). Old people as users and consumers of healthcare: a third age rhetoric for a fourth
age reality?. Ageing and Society, 18, pp 233­248

More to follow, probably.

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