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.