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Session Overview
RN01_07a: Culture, Values and Images in the Field of Ageing II
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

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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Media Representations of Old Age in Slovenia: What the Old-age Exclusion Lens Offers

Otto Gerdina1, Sandra Torres2

1Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia; 2Department of Sociology, Uppsala University, Sweden

We appear to live in a time of unprecedented concern about population aging, a time in which narratives of ‘demographic burden’ and stereotypical images of old age and aging are endlessly and cyclically reproduced in the media. These images often clash with academic and political efforts to create an inclusive environment for older people. To better understand this discrepancy this study takes a closer look at how Slovene media representations of old age and older people are shaped. Although some Slovene research has brought attention to how older people are represented in the daily media, virtually no research has addressed how old-age exclusion is discussed, what kinds of exclusion are brought to fore, which kinds of older people are described as socially excluded and on which grounds. To address this knowledge gap, a longitudinal analysis of the representation of old-age exclusion as well as the contexts in which it appears has been conducted in order to identify which cultural images are deployed in order to tell the story of old-age exclusion to the Slovene public. Through quantitative content analysis, the study sheds light into the ways in which representations of old-age exclusion have changed over the past 15 years in four Slovene daily newspapers. These representations are interrogated against the backdrop that scholarship on old-age exclusion offers.

Future Scenarios Of Living When Old – Comparative Views From Finland And The USA

Ulla-Maija Koivula1, Amanda Woodward2

1Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Finland; 2Michigan State University, USA

Population ageing is one of the megatrends shaping the future world. Care services for the elderly are in constant public discussion often with some of “ageism” (Applewhite 2016). But what do the present day 60-year-olds think about what their future will be like when they are 80 years old? And what do present day elder care workers think about services in the future? This is asked in the ongoing project based on a futures research approach.

The data are collected via an empathy-based role play method from two countries representing different welfare regimes, Finland and the US.To date, stories have been collected from 54 Finnish persons and about 90 persons from the State of Michigan in the USA. Data will be collected from care workers later in 2019 followed by future workshops of care workers and people of early retirement age to be held in 2020. The theoretical background of the research is based on critical futures research (Inayatullah 2003; 2008) and critical gerontology (Baars et al. 2006).

The research questions are: 1) What elements are present (and what are missing) in the positive or negative future visions of life in old age? 2) What are the differences and similarities between respondents in the two countries? and 3 )What is their relation to the cultural norms or social welfare structures in each country?

Preliminary results suggest that key elements of a positive old age are related to self-directiveness, meaningfulness and belonginess. In the Finnish texts there is an implicit trust that services will be available when needed. In the US the wellbeing in old age tend to depend on individuals themselves.

Meaning in Later Life – Belonging and Believing in Non-religious Contexts

Jenni Spännäri

University of Helsinki, Finland

Meaning in life has been redeemed crucial in older adulthood by both research and the experience of healthcare professionals. Especially in the context of life’s finity and end of life issues, sense of meaning has a significant impact to quality of life, subjective wellbeing and resilience.

Traditionally it has been argued, that this phenomenon is behind the turning to religion, religious social activities and religious meaning systems, which many older persons experience and exhibit.

However,exploring questions of meaning in the late modern societal context has highlighted that religion is not a preferred choice for many older adults. Instead, questions of meaning in transitions of later life are reflected and pondered in non-religious contexts. These contexts might involve spiritual, non-religious activities or social groups centered around personal growth.

This paper lays out the essential approaches and theoretical foundation needed for empirically examining this phenomenon, including the ways of measuring and approaching meaning in life. The paper also reports the results of a qualitative pilot study on a group of Finnish older adults (65-85 years old), taking part into a good life and wellbeing workshops on their free time.

The paper provides new insight into the generation and usage of meaning systems – the questions of shared meaning in non-religious but spiritual contexts – and thus can offer valuable outlook to approaching meaning in life of older adults, both in research and in practice.

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