Friday, 11 March 2011

If we're used to being independent can we do interdependence?

Being independent has a very high value in most western civilisations. Many people hope to remain in their own home in later life - but can promoting independence among adults aged 75+ also create pressures for individuals? Elena Portacolone has some interesting ideas on how older people may find themselves regulated by policies that effectively make independence a moral imperative. For instance requirements in some supportive housing may mean that those residents considered more at risk are debarred. In an article to be published in Ageing & Society Portacolone suggests that more attention to interdependence could be fruitful.

The idea of interdependence certainly has some resonance for me following some interviews I've held with women in a transitional phase of entering retirement. My focus in on the experience of ageing for people without children, and many of the participants in my study are also without current partners. Women who had moved to a new area talked about how they went about making new contacts through pursuing interests such as singing or country walks. One remarked on how during her recent period of illness neighbours had helped out and how she tended to do the same for them 'I realise however independent I am ... we all depend on one another and any of us could be in need of some help at any time'.

I’m wondering what the boundaries are between independence and interdependence. Are they opposites or can one thing shade into the other? Women on their own are often thought of as quite independent. In research on older people, never-married women have been found to have the highest levels of organisational membership (Arber 2004). While being prepared to join could show independence there’s also a strong sign of interdependence there surely? The same category of women also have the highest proportions in residential care (Wenger et al.2000). And while that suggests some dependence – the decision to seek care and support can also signal independence – like Diana Athill opting in a rational way for a life ‘free of worries’.

Perhaps it would be good to independently arrive at a degree of interdependence?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Hair today, gone tomorrow?

(cc) imakecontent

We were delighted to hear recently that one of CABS' associate members, Dr Richard Ward, now at the University of Manchester, was successful in getting funding from the ESRC for his research about the role of hairdressing in the lives of older people with high support needs. He says:

"The purpose of this research is to explore the role that hairdressing plays in the lives of older people who are high-level users of health and social care. This will include investigating the formal/paid services provided by hairdressers, as well as the styling and management of hair undertaken by care workers. The research will take account of how image and appearance is managed and maintained by older service users, the importance attached to hairstyles in care settings and explore the links between how we look and how we feel.

Existing research has shown that hair is important to our self-image and that hairdressing is associated with improvements to self-esteem, especially for women and that this increases with age. As hairdressing has not been viewed as a crucial feature of health and social care provision it has tended to be overlooked by research. This means little is known about good practice or what potential it has to support positive outcomes for older service users in respect to promoting a positive self-image in the context of deteriorating health and limiting long-term and mental health conditions such as dementia.

The importance of the research is that it will provide evidence and insights to support an on-going debate over how to balance the needs of service users with pressures of time and funding in the organisation of care. It will also help to better understand the importance of the 'body-work' undertaken by care workers and how this work can support positive relationships in care and help to avoid decline, depression and neglect. The research will also have direct benefits to the hairdressing industry as little is currently known about the experiences of care-based hairdressers and how best to support them"

He and one of CABS' core members, Caroline Holland, have an article out in the current issue of the journal Ageing and Society

Ward, Richard and Holland, Caroline (2011). 'If I look old, I will be treated old': hair and later-life image dilemmas. Ageing and Society, 31(02), pp. 288–307.

I'm looking forward to learning more about this neglected topic.