The Social Networks of Older People: A Cross-National Analysis

The Social Networks of Older People: A Cross-National Analysis

The Social Networks of Older People: A Cross-National Analysis

The Social Networks of Older People: A Cross-National Analysis

Synopsis

This edited volume examines the social networks of older people in nine countries from a range of perspectives in order to determine the potential of informal support structures to deliver the bulk of care in today's society. Researchers from the United States, Canada, England and Wales, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, and Israel present up-to-date analyses of support networks in each of their countries. The social policy implications of the comparative data are critically reviewed. The findings clearly suggest that social network availability is diminishing for a significant minority of elderly people. However, current practice in most countries reveals little purposive interweaving of formal services and informal networks, in order to strengthen the function of the latter and to prolong their presumed benefits.

Excerpt

Howard Litwin

The sociological construct of social network is increasingly being invoked around the world in the policy debate on the social care of elderly people (Abrams, 1980; Litwin and Auslander, 1992; Schilling, 1987; Steinbach, 1992; Wellman and Hall, 1986; Wenger, 1994a; Yoder, Leaper, and Jonker, 1985; Zarit, Pearlin, and Schaie, 1993). a social network constitutes the collection of interpersonal ties that individuals maintain and that provide them with several possible benefits, such as the augmentation of self-concept, the fostering of feelings of belonging, and the provision of both cognitive guidance and tangible assistance in fulfilling the tasks of daily living (Cohen and Syme, 1985; Ell, 1984; Litwin, 1995a). the term frequently implies family and friendship ties, but may also encompass other forms of interpersonal contact, such as relationships with neighbors, work associates, and service personnel (Chappell, 1991b; Gottlieb, 1981; Kendig, 1986; Litwak, 1985). Given the potential for informal support that may be forthcoming from one's social network, the relevance of the network phenomenon for the elderly and for frail elements of society has been underscored in a variety of settings (Hooyman, 1983; Sauer and Coward, 1985; Shuval, Fleishman, and Shmueli, 1982).

Accordingly, the network phenomenon has become the object of social research over the past few decades. This emerging field of inquiry includes a variety of approaches and a range of methodologies. Some researchers, for example, employ a comprehensive interpretation of the network notion. in studies that address a range of populations, they call for the measuring of the broad range of . . .

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