Saturday, 10 May 2014

Age friendly societies in our time? Last winter I prepared a lengthy literature review on older people and social isolation, for an exciting research project being run by WoodGreen Community Services in Toronto. The paper is now available and I hope will be very useful for the range of material it draws together. It covers material on the built and green environment; quality of life, health and well-being; and social support and connection. The project sought an understanding of the state and breadth of knowledge about the social isolation of older people in urban areas, with particular attention paid to housing form, and formal and informal care. The coverage is of international material in English. It was an overview rather than a systematic literature review – the huge literatures on ageing, health, quality of life, loneliness and so on, combined with a limited budget, precluded close reading of methodologies used in the material described. The bibliography covers nearly 500 separate items. Consistencies in the research emerge of course, but there are also a few fascinating inconsistencies – for example around the connection between religion, older people’s social networks, and well-being. Two characteristics of the literature struck me in particular as I was trawling and reading. The first is the stark invisibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older people in any content that is not specifically about them. In the review I have distributed the material that is available, across several sections, so as not to compound that effect. The second is the number of calls that are made for increased participation of older people in decision making processes, alongside comparatively few accounts of such involvement. I’m indebted to Diane Dyson at WoodGreen and to Angus McCabe at the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham, for their support throughout.
Neighbourhood belonging in the UK: could do better So the UK and Germany – according to some media coverage of a recent ONS report - are the 'least neighbourly' countries in the European Union. The report reproduces a hard-to-find figure from the Third European Quality of Life survey (3EQLS) which used a five point scale for the following statement: ‘I feel close to people in the area where I live.’ Some people might think that's as much about belonging or cohesion as it is about neighbourliness. For those who agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, the average across the EU apparently was exactly two-thirds. For the UK it was a miserable 58.4 per cent – very narrowly superior to Germany’s 58.3 per cent. Here are two little curiosities. Cyprus appears at the top of the list of countries on this measure, with almost 81 per cent of respondents saying they feel close to people in the area where they live. However, Cyprus also has a very high rate (2.6%) of people who say they never have face-to-face contact with friends or neighbours outside the household (the UK figure is 1.4 per cent, similar to most countries). And Table 3 of the EQLS report on subjective well-being (2013) offers a finding which perhaps might have appealed to the more exploratory journalists in the recent coverage. It gives ‘the worst and best’ for all European countries in the study. The UK does quite well on the loneliness score, but has the following three ‘worsts’ – I think that means that, out of 27 European countries, the UK population is the most consistently knackered (whether rested or active) and with the lowest sense of neighbourhood belonging (which is what the latest ONS report confirms). ‘Consistently knackered’ can also serve to describe your blogger's state of health these past few months, hence the shortage of contributions in this space, but I hope the drought may now be over.

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