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 http://www.elenaportacolone.com/ 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?