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Older men living alone represent a rising and historically new social group that will significantly influence the future of ageing. So far, this sub-population has been considered a homogenous group at risk of social isolation or one too small to be given much attention. The small amount of empirical work suggests that the lives of older men living alone are much more heterogeneous and that social isolation is only one theme among many others. Indeed social relationships and caring about others can play an important role in the lives of older men living alone and resonate with work on changing cultures of ageing in late modernity and increased agency in later life. This paper sets out to gain a better understanding of the social reality that shapes the lives of older men living alone by theorising the social position of being on your own, both in terms of reduced relationality with a significant other (e.g. partner or spouse), but also in terms of increasing personal agency (e.g., having to make decisions for oneself). To do so this paper will use Margret Archer’s theoretical work on reflexivity and its relevance to personal agency. Following Archer, reflexivity is the mental capacity of people to consider themselves in relation to their social contexts and their social contexts in relation to themselves. If older men living alone can care for themselves and others despite decreased relationality then increased reflexivity may well be the process through which they ‘make up their minds’.
Doing Care in Rural Environment: interlinks between place, care arrangements strategies and social exclusion in Germany and Poland
Anna Urbaniak1, Josefine Heusinger2, Katrin Falk2
1Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, Ireland; 2Institute fuer Gerontologische Forschung, Germany
Existing literature recognises the diversity of care needs in heterogenous group of older people. However, little is known about spatial aspects that influence the need for care and access to care services for those individuals. These issues become more and more important especially in the context of current discussion on age friendly cities and communities as one of the frameworks aiming at combating social exclusion of older people. Model of age – friendly community assumes that a community adapts its structures and services to be accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs and capacities (WHO, 2007, p.1) However, dependent older people are quite often excluded from the discourse of active ageing and their needs remain not fully recognized, especially in the context of age – friendliness of rural environment. In this paper qualitative interviews with dependent older people, their carers and local stakeholders are analysed in order to investigate how place, homecare arrangements and social exclusion of dependent older people are interconnected. By doing so we aim to shed more light on the processes that seem to be crucial for understanding what constitutes age – friendly community in the rural context. Here, we draw on evidence from different kinds of rural community in two different jurisdictions: Poland and Germany. Results show that rural environment creates specific challenges and possibilities that impact care arrangements strategies of caregivers and stakeholders as well as expectations of older dependent people.
‘We Treat Them All the Same’: the Attitudes, Knowledge and Practices of Staff Concerning Old/er Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Residents (LGBT) in Care Homes
Paul Simpson1, Kathryn Almack2, Walthery Pierre3
1Edge Hill University, United Kingdom; 2University of Hertfordshire; 3University of Oxford
The distinct needs of LGB&T residents in care homes accommodating older people have been neglected in scholarship. On the basis of a survey of 187 individuals, including service managers and direct care staff, we propose three related arguments. First, whilst employees’ attitudes generally indicate a positive disposition towards LGB&T residents, this appears unmatched by ability to recognize such individuals and knowledge of the issues and policies affecting LGB&T people. Statements such as, ‘We don’t have any (LGBT residents) at the moment,’ and ‘I/we treat them all the same’ were common refrains in responses to open-ended questions. Simultaneously, in showing reflexivity of staff professing strong religious belief, we challenge over-association of such beliefs with LGBT phobias and as representing traditionalization. They suggest the working of heteronormativity which could deny sexual and identity difference. Second, failure to recognize the distinct health and social care needs of LGB&T residents means that they could be subject to a uniform service, which presumes a heterosexual past and cisgender status (compliance with ascribed gender), which risks compounding inequality and invisibility. Third, LGB&T residents could be obliged to depend largely on the goodwill, knowledge and reflexivity of individual staff (including people of faith) to meet care and personal needs, though such qualities were necessary but not sufficient conditions for inclusion and no substitute for collective practices (involving commitment to learn about LGB&T issues) that become integral to care homes’ everyday functioning. A collective approach is key to advancing inclusion, implementation of legal rights to self-expression and securing equality through differentiated provision.