Ageing strand abstracts

Receipt of care in older age: Monday 9 September 1.30pm

Older people’s receipt of social support in England
Athina Vlacantoni, EPSRC Care Life Cycle Programme, Centre for Research on Ageing and ESRC Centre for Population Change, University of Southampton; Richard Shaw, University of Glasgow; Maria Evandrou, EPSRC Care Life Cycle Programme, Centre for Research on Ageing and ESRC Centre for Population Change, University of Southampton; Jane Falkingham, EPSRC Care Life Cycle Programme, ESRC Centre for Population Change and Centre for Research on Ageing, University of Southampton

Demographic and policy change can have an adverse effect on the social care support received by older people, whether through informal, formal state or private sources. This paper analyses the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing data (wave 4) in order to examine the demographic and socio-economic characteristics associated with the receipt of support by older people from different sources. The research findings outline three key results which have significant implications for the organisation of social care for older persons in the future. Firstly, the number of Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), followed by the number of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are the strongest determinants of receiving support from any source in later life. Secondly, there are significant gender differences in the factors which are associated with the receipt of support from different sources; for example, physical health is a strong determinant of informal support receipt by men, while mental health status is a strong determinant of informal support receipt by women. Finally, different kinds of needs are associated with the receipt of support from different sources, and this ‘link’ raises questions about the manner in which future social care provision should be organised.  

On the compensating role of extended family and non-family ties among the childless elderly in Germany
Sebastian Schnettler, Thomas Wöhler, Department of Sociology, University of Konstanz

Previous research shows that children, along with partners, are the most important support persons in old age. But the combined trends of increasing childlessness and increasing life expectancy leave ever more people without these potential supporters. This raises important questions: Do the childless elderly perceive and experience less support potential than parents? Or do other people in the networks of the childless elderly take over social support functions usually taken up by partners and children – and if so which persons? Previous research on the individual consequences of childlessness in old age has not been able to answer these questions, often due to problems associated with small case numbers. Using a pooled data set of three waves of the German Aging Survey (DEAS), including 1,866 childless individuals and 12,774 parents, we provide a detailed description of the social networks of the elderly childless, compared against those of parents, in a nationally representative sample. We will further present regression results on the possible determinants that mediate the existence of support ties in old age. Results indicate that the childless are not a homogenous, socially isolated group – instead we can identify important risk and resilience factors that moderate the influence between childlessness and perceived social support. Although we find childlessness to have a negative impact on support potential overall, compensation by other network members than children takes place, e.g. by siblings and friends. We further identify a cohort effect such that compensation is more likely for younger cohorts.  

Shifting and static attitudes towards intergenerational transfers of care in rural Malawi
Emily Freeman, Centre for Research on Ageing, University of Southampton

This presentation will consider two interwoven, but not necessarily allied, discourses on the practice and expectations of intergenerational transfer of care for older adults in rural Malawi. It will be based on analyses of data produced between 2008 and 2010 using repeat dependent interviews (N=135) with older men and women (N=43) and key informant interviews (N=19) with policy and programme makers. These will be supplemented by fieldwork observations over 11 months, as well as data from a three-month multi-site pilot study, interviews with HIV support groups (N=3) and policy documents. The presentation starts in the villages of southern Malawi. It will explore the centrality of reciprocal exchanges of physical strength (“blood”) and the importance of self-care in older adults’ understandings of old age care without shame. Against this, it will consider the receipt of care in practice and how ‘real life’ – food scarcity, priorities, illness and arguments – distorted the reciprocal exchange. The presentation will then move to Lilongwe, the capital, where in an emerging ageing-focused policy and programme arena, government and civil society stakeholders were engaged in finding a solution to a contested ‘problem’: what should an “African” response be if children could no longer be relied upon to support their parents in old age? In both urban and rural spaces, old age care provided a forum in which national and social identities were constructed and reconstructed.  

Ageing: Segregation and inequality at older ages: Monday 9 September 4.45pm

Does the level of health inequality within an area influence the health of older people?
Alan Marshall, Stephen Jivraj, James Nazroo, Gindo Tampubolon, Bram Vanhoutte, University of Manchester

The main focus of this paper is to consider whether the level of wealth inequality within an area is associated with several dimensions of health (self-reported limiting long term illness, depression and a timed walk) in the older population (aged 50+) using the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Additionally, we also examine whether area wealth and deprivation, are associated with the health of older individuals. Our results vary according to health outcome and geographical scale and where we find area health effects these often vary across the distribution of individual wealth. Whilst area inequality is not important predictor of health, we do find some evidence of higher levels of limiting long term illness (LLTI) in more unequal regions (9 regions in England) although this finding is sensitive to the measure of area inequality. There are lower risks of LLTI for individuals living outside the poorest districts after controlling for relevant individual and area characteristics. Increasing neighbourhood deprivation is associated with poorer outcomes in terms of depression and self-reported limiting long term illness. We do not find any significant area effects on the speed at which individuals completed the timed walk but, as for depression and LLTI, we observe a striking gradient of declining health with declines in individual wealth. We conclude that inequalities in health outcomes amongst older people in England are best understood in terms of an individual’s socio-economic position and in the case of certain health outcomes, the extent of deprivation within their neighbourhood of residence.  

What are the dominant patterns of expenditure among the older population and what explains these?
David Hayes, Personal Finance Research Centre, University of Bristol; Dylan Kneale, International Longevity Centre, & Andrea Finney, Personal Finance Research Centre, University of Bristol

Recognising the heterogeneity that exists among the older population, and classifying and segmenting the population accordingly, is of key interest to policy-makers and practitioners. Furthermore, a good understanding of older people’s expenditure and consumption is necessary in order to inform the design of policies and services that affect their lives. This understanding also informs the wider academic debate surrounding aspects of wellbeing among older people. Although poverty and material deprivation among this population have been the subject of considerable research, the implications of an ageing population and their levels and patterns of expenditure and consumption have not been explored adequately.
Using equivalised and absolute expenditure, this paper presents results from a household-level analysis of the Living Costs and Food Survey by:
1. Describing expenditure by age and other key variables using descriptive statistics (among households where the Household Representative Person (HRP) is aged 50 or over);
2. Segmenting and constructing a typology of the older population based on their expenditure patterns (using cluster analysis)
3. Determining the drivers of these expenditure patterns (using logistic regression analysis), and the reasons for differences among segments of the older population.

This analysis uses an innovative methodology to generate in-depth knowledge about differences that exist within the older population in relation to their expenditure and consumption. Drawing out the implications for policy and research, our aim is to stimulate much-needed further conversation and research in this area.  

Trends in age segregation in England and Wales
Albert Sabater, Centre for Housing Research, University of St Andrews Ludi Simpson, Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research, University of Manchester

Age structures vary considerably between cities, towns and countryside. While a positive population momentum is usually concentrated in urban areas as a result of the young age structure of their residents, the reverse occurs in rural settings where a negative momentum is found due to the growing elderly population. Within this context, although age segregation might be less pronounced than other forms of segregation (e.g. social class, ethnicity and family cycle), little is known about the trends in age segregation over time and space in England and Wales. To address our main research question –how residentially segregated are the old versus the young?, we examine general patterns of urban-rural residence of those aged 65 and above compared to all other ages. Using an urban-rural classification, we analyse two dimensions of segregation (evenness and exposure) across districts in England and Wales. While we assume that in large and fast-growing cities the intense competition for residential locations leads to higher levels of segregation of the aged via displacement, increasing age segregation is also likely to occur in rural settings due to the relatively few young adults who can afford to move away to less suburban and more rural environments. The analysis uses full population estimates (1991-2001) and data from the 2011 Census in England and Wales. The results are expected to contribute to existing segregation debates that have almost entirely ignored age as a key factor in explaining the distribution of population across space.  

Challenging understandings of population ageing. Wednesday 11 September 11.00am

Population ageing in Scotland: time for a rethink?
John MacInnes, Jeroen Spijker, University of Edinburgh

In 2011 it was the first time that there were more people aged 65+ in Scotland than children younger than 15. A century ago the elderly represented about 1:20 of the population. Today their share is 1:6. Not surprisingly, yet without well-substantiated empirical basis, commentators and social scientists alike express concern about population ageing — the process whereby falls in fertility and concomitant rises in life expectancy give rise to changes in the population's age structure within which older people form an ever-increasing proportion of the total. Objective: To use alternative approaches to conventional ageing indicators to describe population ageing in Scotland. Data and method: With data from the Human Mortality Database and using alternative definitions of the elderly based on remaining life expectancy more objective ageing indicators are constructed. Results: Between 1950 and 2009, life expectancy rises kept pace with rises in the median age, such that both the median age and the median remaining life expectancy in the population rose, i.e. the Scottish population in 2009 was as young as it was in 1950. While the population is ‘older’ in the traditional sense (higher average age), thanks to gains in life expectancy, it did not ‘age’ at all. Conclusion: People are living longer partly because they are healthier. As expenditure on health and social care is still concentrated in the final years of life and increases in life expectancy postpones this expenditure to higher ages, old age should not be a static but a dynamic concept and be measured as such.  

Trajectories of functional disability in the elderly Robert French & Fiona Steele, Centre for Multilevel Modelling, University of Bristol 


Research question: This study characterises trajectories of functional disability over the final stages of the life course. We examine between individual heterogeneity in growth curves, and how trajectories differ by gender and SES.

Methods: We estimate growth curves in a standard way, the innovation is to incorporate a measurement model for the outcome variable ‘functional disability’. To model trajectories of such a latent variable we must demonstrate measurement invariance over time.

Data: Data come from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), an annual household survey of all adults in a representative sample of British households from 1991-2008. Analysis focuses on the sub-sample of elderly household members (aged 65-84).

Preliminary results & potential applications: There is no definitive test for measurement invariance, the most commonly applied is chi-squared, we also consider two additional tests to add robustness. Growth curves are currently provisional, we have fitted models and results will be interpreted in the final paper 

Retirement and cognitive skills: the mediating role of social activities and grand-parenting
Bruno Arpino, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barceloa &d Centre for Research on Social Dynamics, Bocconi University, Valeria Bordone, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID, WU), Vegard Skirbekk, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID, WU)

Little and contrasting evidence exists on the effects of grandparental childcare on grandparents. However, there exists clear evidence of a negative effect of retirement on cognitive functioning and of positive effects of engaging in social activities. These events all tend to happen at mid-life. In this paper, first, we analyse to what extent grand-parenting and working compete with social activities. If any effect of grand-parenting and retirement on the probability to be involved in social activities will be found, it will then be of interest to assess how this can have an impact on grandparents’ cognitive functioning and health-related aspects. We use time-varying instrumental variable regression on longitudinal data from the first (2004), second (2006/2007) and fourth (2010/2011) waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. Retired older persons have more time to invest both in childcare and social activities. However, if grand-parenting subtracts time to social activities, the positive effect of grand-parenting on cognitive functioning (and health) due to an increase in the sense of responsibility and to a more active life could be reduced by the (indirect) negative effects of less involvement in other stimulating activities. The aim of our paper is therefore to assess whether grand-parenting and social activities can mitigate the negative effect of retirement.