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Session Overview
RN01_06a: Culture, Values and Images in the Field of Ageing I
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Lucie Galčanová, Masaryk University, Faculty of Social Studies
Location: UP.3.204
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Third Floor Oxford Road

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Reimagining Ageing: Wisdom Traditions and Contemporary Evidence

Ricca Edmondson

National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland

This paper draws on multiple traditions of wisdom and their contemporary variations in order to reimagine what ageing means both for individuals and for society. It highlights contributions that a palette of wisdom traditions can offer to our understanding of later life as a focus of meaning, insight and creativity, but also as a stage that offers specific pains and challenges. While contemporary understandings of wisdom among positive psychologists tend to stress personal characteristics connected with wise behaviour, classical traditions may emphasise intricacies of deliberation and virtue. Essayistic and literary accounts illuminate ways in which wisdom features in people’s experience of their lifetimes, a feature sometimes left implicit in other analyses. This paper draws not only on these traditions but also on intercultural empirical investigations in order to cast light on ways in which capacities for various forms of wisdom can evolve through human lifetimes, not least in connection with ethics, caring and activating private and political values. This is intended to expand our understanding of the parts older people may play in both social and symbolic landscapes.

The paper is supported by empirical data from the international ‘Self, Motivation and Virtue’ project in which the author is participating, together with colleagues from Canada, South Korea and the United States, as well as by longitudinal ethnographic observations from relevantly-themed meetings among older people in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Ireland. It advances a novel 'hexagonal' model of challenges linked to ageing, and connects them with features derived from a variety of conceptions of wisdom.

The Good Version Of What? Subjective Definitions Of Ageing Well And The Diverse Faces Of Ageing

Selma Kadi

Tuebingen University, Germany

Research on subjective definitions of ageing well contrasts with some of the established concepts of ageing well, particularly the widely referenced concept of successful ageing by Rowe and Kahn. Compared to Rowe and Kahn’s concept, subjective definitions tend to include more components, comprise more components which pertain to the context rather than the individual, and attest more people that they are ageing well. At times when successful ageing following Rowe and Kahn has gained influence on the policy level, research on subjective definitions can provide alternative perspectives on ageing well. However, research in this field tends to focus on the aims in terms of ageing well only. The paper presents findings from a study based on qualitative content analysis of 45 semi-structured interviews with adults. I argue that by simultaneously researching how ageing is experienced, we can take its diverse manifestations and meanings better into account in the study of subjective definitions of ageing well. By not only focusing on the dimension of ageing well but equally on the (current) experience of ageing, we gain a better understanding of the foundations on which subjective definitions of ageing well are based. This is important to better understand the diversity of definitions of ageing well and to develop policy which can respond to the diverse manifestations and meanings of ageing in people’s lives.

Respecting the Elderly in Contemporary Russian Society

Elena Bogdanova1,2

1European University at St.Peteresburg, Russian Federation; 2Centre for Independent Social Research, Russian Federation

In recent years, older people in Russia are increasingly becoming the object of various governmental initiatives, which claim deep understanding of their needs, and also their place and role in the society. Despite some efforts by reformers, there is no uniform policy in Russia regarding older people. Moreover, in Russia there is no clear cultural pattern of attitudes towards the elderly. It has neither the Eastern model of respect for the elderly, nor the Western legal tradition. Most likely, there is an intermediate version, which combines Soviet morality, new Orthodox norms, traditional family values and (post-)socialist contract of generations.

The current generation of the elderly in Russia has a unique life experience. Most of them went through a life full of crises: World War II, famine, soviet political repressions, collapse of the Soviet regime in 1990s. This study is designed to compensate for the lack of sociocultural understanding of their life experience, and to follow connections between this experience and relation of the contemporary Russian society to the elderly.

The study is based on a method, developed by Michèle Lamont and her co-authors in the book, “Getting Respect” (2016). Our study is conducted in the North-West region of Russia. It includes a series (currently 25, and in plan over 100) of in-depth biographical interviews with men and women over 75 years old, focused on their experience of respect and disrespect in various situations of their life, especially in their old age. In final result an analysis of the interview reveals the attitude of society towards the elderly, as well as the factors and mechanisms of social isolation of the elderly in modern Russian society.

Cultures of Deservingness: a Boundary Work Perspective to the Precarious Position(s) of Ageing Migrants in Finland

Antero Olakivi1, Vanessa May2, Sirpa Wrede1

1University of Helsinki, Finland; 2University of Manchester, UK

In Finland, ageing people with migrant backgrounds are vulnerable to material poverty but also to social stigmas. Anti-immigration discourses can question the social and welfare rights of migrants in general, or, alternatively, limit these rights to 'deserving' migrants who are ‘active’ in the labour market (i.e., employed, not retired). Further, (neoliberal) discourses of active ageing highlight the ability of all ageing people to manage their lives with minimal state support. These discourses, as potential sources of stigma for individuals who might need customized support, are well-known in sociology. In contrast, we know little about the (assumedly various) ways in which ageing people with different migrant backgrounds live their lives in relation to these discourses.

This study examines the symbolic and affective practices through which ageing people with different migrant backgrounds can avoid and manage the above (potential) stigmas, especially when they need social or state support in Finland. First, the study examines the boundary work through which ageing people with different migrant backgrounds can be socially constructed–and can construct themselves–as ‘deserving’ members of the Finnish society. Second, the study examines how this boundary work entangles with nationality, gender and class.

The political aim of the study is to facilitate stigma-free communication in everyday and institutional settings where the care and other welfare needs of people with migrant backgrounds come into focus. Empirically, the study examines boundary work in interview interaction. The participants in the interaction are people aged over 65 who were born outside Finland and university researchers who were mostly born in Finland.

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