Ageing in European ‘risk societies’ between Covid-19, digitization and climate change
Organizacja: Jolanta Perek-Białas (UJ / SGH), Andreas Hoff (Zittau/Görlitz University of Applied Sciences)
I 15.09, 14:00-15:30
II 15.09, 16:00-17:30
Miejsce: SGGW, BUD. 34, Sala 2/18
Słowa kluczowe: ageing, digitization, risk societies, sociology of ageing
Societal realities of the early 21st century call for the re-application and re-examination of Ulrich Beck’s concept of “Risk Society” to sociological analysis. The book “Risk Society” was first published in 1986 coinciding with the ‘maximum conceivable accident’ in the nuclear power plant of Chernobyl to explain the future of an individualistic society associated with a number of new risks. Today, we are some 35 years down the road living in individualistic societies all across Europe. Europe is facing various ‘mega-trends’ at the same time putting past achievements at risk. Collective precautions, such as retirement pension, health care or long-term care systems are increasingly failing – people have to face contemporary risks individually. Older people have been worst affected and are least able to cope with new risks like the global pandemic Covid-19, widespread poverty and social exclusion, discrimination and the depopulation of rural areas and are likely to be severely affected by the new mega trends of digitization and climate change.
Rigorous empirical analysis requires solid theoretical background study, which is urgently needed in the sociology of ageing. There is still an open question how sociological theories could be better used and developed in the analysis of social change due to ageing. This session will explore the potential of Ulrich Beck’s “Risk Society” for analyzing, explaining and understanding (‘Verstehen’ in the sense of Max Weber) contemporary ageing societies in Europe and the risks they pose to older people.
With the proposed session we would continue a series of ‘sociology of ageing’ sessions at Polish Sociology Congresses started in Zielona Góra 2007 and organized in Cracow 2010, Szczecin 2013, and Gdańsk 2016. We would like to submit a session in English, which previously attracted sociologists from all across Central and Eastern Europe i.e. from countries sharing the reality of particularly rapid societal ageing. The session is assumed to be in English, however presentations in Polish would be also possible and equally welcome.
Katarzyna Zawisza, Beata Tobiasz-Adamczyk, Tomasz Grodzicki
In response to the public-health need to recognize risk factors for excess mortality related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the study was aimed to identify potential risk factors for 29 months all-cause mortality before the COVID-19 pandemic and during the first fourteen months of the pandemic (first and second phase) among older people in Poland with special attention to health, unhealthy living conditions and social characteristics.
A cross-sectional study: Elder neglect and self-neglect – challenges for formal and informal caregivers and the medical and social professional care system was conducted in Małopolska Region in Poland in 2017; 1,976 face-to-face interviews were performed among individuals aged 65 or older randomly selected from the general population. A structured questionnaire was used to collect information. Such determinants like place of residence, characteristics of unhealthy living arrangements (lack of: bathroom, toilet in the house, kitchen, hot water, refrigerator, washing machine, damaged household appliances and coal heating; dust, dirt, as well as living space in square meters per person -overcrowded houses/flats) were defined as potential risk factors in relation to gender, age, marital status, level of education, personal net monthly income in PLN (less than or equal to 950 PLN (the first quartile); more than 950 PLN). Abuse neglect and self-neglect were measured using developed authors instruments: Self-Reported Neglect Scale (SRNS); the whole assessment of self-neglect was performed using three scales: The Self-Reported Self-Neglect Scale (SRSNS), The Objective Assessment of the Level of Self-Neglect – Physical Appearance (OALSN-PA) scale and The Objective Assessment of the Level of Self-Neglect – Standards of Living Arrangements (OALSN-SLA). Higher scores on the scales indicated a higher level of symptoms of abuse, neglect or self-neglect.
Information about deaths was obtained from the State Systems Department; presented results are based on the Cox proportional hazard models.
In conclusion, groups of older people at risk of all-cause mortality in the second phase of the COVID-19 pandemic were markedly different than in the first phase. Observed all-cause mortality patterns during the pandemic were different to a great extent from those from the pre-pandemic time.
Dorota Węziak-Białowolska, Piotr Białowolski, Pier Luigi Sacco
Introduction. Although special attention has been paid by researchers to leisure activities and their salutogenic effects on improving and maintaining good health and well-being, the evidence on the effects of various types of mind games and brain exercises on health remains limited, with some preliminary results indicating a positive impact on mental health. In our study, we examined prospective associations within a 6-year perspective between three leisure activities that stimulate mind and 21 outcomes in the domains of (1) physical health, (2) emotional well-being, (3) quality of life, (4) cognitive impairment, and (5) longevity. We focused on mind engaging leisure activities that involve different kind of directed cognitive effort, distinguishing relaxed, serious, and social ones, as well as differentiating between solitary and social activities.
Methods. Data originated from 19,821 middle-aged and older adults from 15 countries participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The temporal associations were examined using generalized estimating equations. All models were controlled for prior sociodemographic, personality, and lifestyle factors, health behaviors, history of health conditions, and pre-baseline values of all outcome variables simultaneously. All missing covariate and outcome variables were imputed using chained equations. Bonferroni correction was used to correct for multiple testing. The E-values were calculated to examine the sensitivity of associations to unmeasured confounding. Secondary analyses under the complete case scenario, after excluding respondents with health conditions as well as using more traditional – including only demographic and socio-economic – covariates were conducted to provide evidence on the robustness of the results.
Results. Reading books, magazines, and newspapers almost every day was prospectively associated with a lower risk of being diagnosed with depression, experiencing pain, limitations in activities of daily living, cognitive impairment as well as with lower scores in loneliness, and more favorable emotional health outcomes. Doing number and word games almost daily was found to be prospectively associated with a lower risk of depression, greater feeling of full energy, and lower risk of death regardless of the cause of death. Doing number and word games sometimes (but not every day) was associated with greater subsequent future time orientation and lower risk of cognitive impairment. Playing cards and games almost daily was found to be prospectively associated with lower scores on the loneliness scale, a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but an increased risk of cancer. Additionally, playing cards and games sometimes (but not daily) was found to be associated with subsequent better future and present time assessments, lower risks of depression, of feeling pain, and of limitations in mobility. These associations were independent of demographics, socioeconomic status, personality, prior history of diseases, and lifestyle. The set of sensitivity analyses provided substantial evidence for the robustness of these associations.
Conclusions. Mind engaging leisure activities can be considered a resource for health and well-being. Practitioners may consider each of them as a tool that helps middle-aged and older adults maintain health and good quality of life.
Demographic change is resulting in an increasing proportion of the population comprising people aged 55 and over. Their professional activity is increasingly at the risk of individual entrepreneurship that is self-employment. The second type of risk that older workers face is environmental risk. Its dimension is sustainable activities in the economic sphere. This is due to the need to change the current way of managing to one that is aimed at reducing the consumption of natural resources, producing less waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions or levelling social inequalities. Socio-economic development at the local level increasingly includes support for micro-companies that will take action for sustainable development. The Voivodship Labour Office in Lodz has held a competition of applications for people deciding to start an independent business. Applicants for the period July 2020-January 2022 included people over 55 who were planning sustainable activities such as creating green products and environmental friendly processes, reviewing actions harmful to the environment. The aim of the study is to provide examples of entering into pro-environmental behaviours in relation to self-employment of older people. To determine the extent to which people over 55 engage in self-employment with a focus on environmental aspects (quantitative study) and to define their eagerness to engage in pro-environmental activities, environmental consciousness and green self-efficacy of older entrepreneurs in lodzkie region (qualitative studies).
In modern Risk Societies where scientific knowledge might be insufficient to tackle emerging challenges, including voices and experiences of older adults as experts-by-experience creates a space for better understanding contemporary ageing societies. However the participation of older adults in research and policy-making is a relatively new concept comprising a number of approaches like “inclusive research”, “user-led research”, “community research”, “participatory action research” (PAR), “collaborative research” , “citizen science” or “co-research” that produce dispersed and fragmented knowledge on participatory approaches with older adults.
This paper reports on the findings of a scoping review that investigated the ways in which older adults are involved in the research process in social sciences. The work represents the initial phase of a larger Austrian citizen science study “SEVEN: Socially Excluded Older Adults: Voices and Experiences” considering co-creation of research on exclusion from social relations in older age.
Findings highlight the potential of participatory approaches not only for improving policy and research designs but also to address the particularly pronounced power imbalance in the research and policy-making processes (between researchers and older adults and policy-makers and older adults respectively).
I conclude that this shift in power between research subjects and researchers/ policy makers is needed for explaining and understanding contemporary ageing societies in Europe and designing policy addressing the risks they pose to older people.
The aim of the paper is to present some sociological theories and concepts concerning social situation of elderly people including its advantages and disadvantages, risk and chances for good quality of life. In accordance with this objective social participation of senior citizens will be discussed as a controversial issue. That is why not only the basic contradictory socio-gerontological theories (disengagement theory and activity theory) will be mentioned, but also those trying to make compromise between them like e.g. continuation theory and theory of gerotranscendence. When discussing these theories and concepts some of their practical implications will be depicted. One of the issues which will be discussed (analysed) is social isolation of the elderly. It will be presented from theoretical perspective and in the light of the some studies. One of the angles from which the problem of isolation of the elderly can be considered is the viewpoint of urban studies or/and urban sociology. From that particular angle it can be analysed in terms of e.g. neighbour relations, social networks and social support in residential environment, architectural barriers, opportunities for social integration within peer-groups of the elderly, creation of special retirement communities, other enclaves of senior citizens and ghettos of elderly residents of towns districts, rural areas and cities. The other life events and social processes that can have negative impact on the quality of life of elderly people are e.g. losses of meaningful roles and beloved as well as lowering position in the system of intergenerational transmission of knowledge and changes towards information societies. As social phenomena influencing the lives of older persons can have both positive and negative impact on them within this paper this impact will be discussed in rather SWOT-like analysis mode, including weaknesses, strengths and chances.
Artificial intelligence (AI), despite its unequivocal power to change the world for better, has also proved to have a shadow side to it, where malevolent use of AI systems produce outcomes which are harmful for individuals, social groups or whole communities. The increasing datafication of the contemporary societies has given an unprecedented power to data and those who own data, but also has raised concerns about the issues of privacy, representation and application. The scholarly research into the issues of algorithmic fairness and AI biases gained significant momentum after several seminal works depicting racism and sexism in AI had been brought to public attention. Yet, the AI biases and age discrimination has only recently come to attention of ageing researchers. This presentation aims to cast some light onto the way age bias and age discrimination operate within the AI systems by providing empirical examples of these practices.
The aging population prosess inevitably determines fundamental changes in intergenerational social transfers. In this changing arrangement, positions of the older population members can be significantly differentiated and they depend on a central system of ongoing transfers in society and older people resources.
Irving Rosow (1985) explained that two primary groups of social functions are distinguished from a sociological perspective: institutional and tenuous. The first are clearly and precisely defined by society (e.g. professional roles). The second group consists of loose and undefined roles. In Rosow’s opinion, the elderly social status fits perfectly into the latter category.
Ernest W. Burgess (1960) first described this phenomenon in the 1960s, pointing out specific dilemmas in the perception of retirees’ social roles and termed their positions as “roleless roles”. The alternative to this was “The Busy Ethic”– a concept later proposed in the 1980s by David Ekerdt (1986). It indicated that retired leisure must obtain social legitimization.
We observe changes in the definition of individual and social productivity of seniors without referring to obsolete traditional roles and social structures. Wolfgang Reinhard (2009) even claimed that representatives of the post-war boomer generation experience “the old age of the second type”. For the first time in history, the populations of both developed and developing countries are faced to harness the time and potential of a growing number of older people.
This is accompanied by the development of models departing from treating family ties in terms of pillars. They are replaced by extra-family relationships that arouse more and more interest on the part of the elderly. The new institutional forms of support and activation is crystallizing – services for the elderly, the implementation of which is based on the broadly understood cooperation of service providers and recipients, and the real use of the potential of seniors constituting their human capital (Domański 1993) and social capital (Putnam 2000).
One can see here a possibility of developing co-production of elderly people within the social services dedicated to them directly, constituting an alternative to security organized so far mainly within family relations. Thus, the idea of personal and social productivity of older people appears here, identified with the results achieved through the use of seniors’ own resources – social values identified and achieved in an individual and collective dimension.
Reviewing the definitions and concepts of social services co-production and older people productivity encouraged the author to develop a conceptual model to combine both issues. No similar proposals have been proposed in the literature to date. Therefore, it was necessary to operationalize the created model concepts.
The developed model is an original proposal for a sociological description of the phenomenon of co-production of social services as a source of personal and social productivity of the elderly. It was developed on the basis of an extensive review of Polish and foreign literature on the subject. The proposed solutions were then subjected to extensive empirical verification. The author conducted nationwide research in centers established to operate under the government’s “Senior +” Multiannual Program. Therefore, the subject of the analysis were formal organizers (managers and staff) and beneficiaries (people aged 60+) of services constituting the program offer of individual centers (day houses and “Senior +” clubs).
The author hopes that the presentation will stimulate a debate on this crucial topic and that the conceptual model will be developed in the future.
Danuta Życzyńska-Ciołek, Stefan Bieńkowski,
współautorzy: Stefan Bieńkowski
The main goal of the paper is to portray the situation of older respondents with paltry pensions and analyze it in the context of their biographies. Starting from the changes in the institutional system, we employ the framework of individualization of risk and responsibility to present the results of our empirical study.
The most important reform of the Polish general pension system in the last decades was introduced since the beginning of 1999. One of the fundamental changes was a transition from the defined benefit (DB) system to the defined contribution (DC) system. The latter, also referred to as a “capital-based system,” is characterized by the fact that the amount of the received retirement benefit is closely linked with the amount of contributions paid to the system in the past by a particular person. In consequence, in recent years there have appeared press reports about extremely low, “paltry pensions”. In December 2021, the number of people receiving a pension lower than the minimum (1,250.88 PLN at that time) was 337.6 thousand, and they constituted 9.5% of all the “new-system” pensioners. Moreover, during the reform, two additional pillars were established in which the money of future pensioners was to be managed by private companies/institutions.
Referring to Ulrich Beck’s terminology, we may say that this change meant pension individualization and privatization – the responsibility for future retirement benefits has been largely shifted from the state to individuals and private entities. This change is convergent with other changes often understood as “dismantling” the welfare state such as labor market deregulation or privatization of health care.
In spring 2022, we conducted a small research project that was part of the seventh wave of the Polish Panel Survey, POLPAN. We used survey data to identify respondents receiving retirement benefits below the minimum state pension and contacted them to conduct qualitative biographical interviews. In this paper, we aim to describe the life situations behind the fact that some POLPAN respondents receive “paltry pensions.” We also point out what biographical solutions the respondents have found to be able to make ends meet and retain a sense of dignity, how they evaluate their past and present lives, and how they assess their institutional environment. We discuss the perceived source of the current situation and justifications.