The Family and Community Life of Older People: Social Networks and Social Support in Three Urban Areas

The Family and Community Life of Older People: Social Networks and Social Support in Three Urban Areas

The Family and Community Life of Older People: Social Networks and Social Support in Three Urban Areas

The Family and Community Life of Older People: Social Networks and Social Support in Three Urban Areas

Synopsis

Family life has changed rapidly over te past fifty years and the number of people living longer increases year on year Family and Community Life of Older People revisits three areas (Bethnal Green in London, Wolverhampton in the Midlands and Woodford in Essex) which were the subject of classic studies in the late 1940s and 1950s and explores changes to the family and community lives of older people. The book examines issues such as:*changes in household composition*changes in the geographical proximity of kin and relatives*the extent and type of help provided by the family*contact and relationships with neighbours*relationships with friends*involvement in social and leisure activities*experiences of minority ethnic groups.These questions are explored through a unique set of data including census material, and survey data from interviews with over 600 older people. A key finding is that over the past 50 years we have moved from an old age experienced within the context of the family groupto one shaped by personal communities in which friends may feature as significantly as immediate kin and relatives.Family and Community Life of Older People is a major contribution tothe sociology of the family, of ageing, and of urban life and points up the social policy issues for an ageing society.

Excerpt

Chapter 6 explored the various ways in which support is given to and received among older people. the findings provided substantial evidence for reciprocity between generations, but with differences between daughters and sons, between areas, and between spouses. This chapter will say something more about the process involved in the exchange of support, linking it as far as possible to broader issues concerning the family life of older people. To develop a more detailed account of the role of the family, we returned to a sample of people first interviewed in the survey, conducting a series of tape-recorded, semi-structured interviews with sixty-two white elderly people aged seventy-five and over selected from the three areas; with eighteen people drawn from a younger generation (sons, daughters, nieces or nephews); and with minority ethnic groups in Wolverhampton and Bethnal Green. This chapter reports on our findings from the first of these groups. Subsequent chapters will discuss the interviews with members of the younger generation, and the family life of the Indian and Bangladeshi older people in our study.

The semi-structured interviews were designed to provide a view of the family life of older people complementary to that of the survey. Clearly, as already demonstrated, much has changed since the baseline studies. But, through more detailed questioning of our respondents, we wanted to get a clearer sense of the type of change that had occurred, and some of the continuities that could still be identified. in the case of the white respondents, taking people aged seventy-five and over seemed to us appropriate in the sense that within this age group people are likely to face various kinds of losses and restrictions, to which the family is most likely to make a response of some kind. Our interest was in examining the nature of this

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