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  • Author or Editor: Camilla Lewis x
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This chapter explores how experiences of the pandemic differed greatly between individuals, depending on their biographies and daily lives prior to the pandemic. The findings reveal how biographical turning points affected responses and experiences to the pandemic. A case-study approach is used, to explore how life-course circumstances influenced people’s reactions to, and experiences of, rules such as those associated with social distancing. The longitudinal interviews reveal how experiences of everyday life changed over the duration of the study. The discussion suggests that taking a life-course approach reveals the different capacities and resources that older people resorted to during the prolonged periods of lockdowns and social distancing. It shows that some participants were able to draw on previous life events to help them cope during the pandemic, while others had greater difficulties, due to their already precarious lives.

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This chapter explores how social and caring relationships were reorientated during lockdown, what impact this had on older people, and what factors were behind the various changes. The analysis is organised around five themes: increased social isolation; pressures at home; changes in contact with neighbours and in the neighbourhood; the role of outdoor spaces; and the role of technology. To analyse experiences of contracting and expanding social worlds, a theoretical framework known as landscapes of care is used. This considers the different spaces through which caring relationships were experienced, as well as the different spatial patterns that emerged due to social distancing.

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This chapter focuses on the interviews carried out with 21 community-based organisations (including mutual-aid groups, voluntary bodies, neighbourhood groups and faith-based groups) in Greater Manchester during the pandemic. The discussion examines the role these organisations played in responding to the pandemic and how their responses changed over the 12-month period. The analysis considers the critical role of social infrastructure (libraries, community centres) in providing support to older people, and the consequences arising from cuts to facilities over the period since 2010. The findings are analysed in relation to broader discussion about the precarity faced by both older people and the organisations providing support within the community.

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This chapter examines the everyday lives of older people during the pandemic, discussing changes affecting people’s lives over the period of data collection. It describes a period of a year in which the lives of most of our respondents were changed beyond all recognition. Drawing upon the views and experiences reported by our participants, the following themes are discussed: the impact of shielding; social distancing and social isolation; growing old under lockdown; and reflections on the impact of COVID-19.

People ‘made do’ in various ways: keeping up existing hobbies and finding new interests; in some cases spending more time on prayer and reflection and doing a lot more housework and spending a greater amount of time in the garden or other outdoor spaces. However, running through all these experiences was also the constant reminder of the toll of illness and death from COVID-19, with the daily mortality rate provided by the media something which many of our respondents found especially difficult to bear.

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This chapter makes recommendations for policy with links to the World Health Organization’s ‘Age-Friendly Cities’ initiative, which has been influential in raising awareness about the need to adapt urban environments to the demands of ageing populations. A combination of widening inequalities within and between urban environments, and the impact of austerity on local government and city budgets, has raised questions about future progress in developing age-friendly programmes and related activities (Buffel et al, 2018). These pressures have been compounded by the impact of COVID-19. Considering this context, the discussion outlines a number of recommendations in relation to developing a ‘community-centred approach’ in responding to future variants of COVID-19, as well as making suggestions for how to create a post-pandemic urban environment.

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This chapter outlines the methodology used in the study, explaining how a qualitative longitudinal approach was used in order to capture the experiences of older people over a 12-month period of the pandemic. Since the restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown rules were unprecedented, the research team devised alternative ways of working, largely using online platforms and telephone interviews. Details about the sample, recruitment and data analysis are presented, as well as reflections about the opportunities and limitations of working during the pandemic. The chapter also provides information about the Greater Manchester region, = the location for interviews with older people and community organisations. The process of working with community organisations and recruiting participants is also discussed.

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This chapter provides a sociological analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic, with reference to the social context affecting ageing populations, together with the impact of the pandemic on different groups of older people. Although the effect of COVID-19 has been examined in various ways, its broad social and cultural determinants have been given much less consideration in research. The chapter outlines a theoretical framework for understanding the pressures facing older people in the context of the emergence of what is viewed as a more ‘precarious’ society. It suggests the pandemic should be understood within the broader context of ageing itself becoming a more precarious experience, with reductions in social protection, the raising of pension ages, the privatisation of health and social care, and the impact of various forms of discrimination facing groups from ethnic minority communities.

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Despite the burgeoning literature on the pandemic, there remain few detailed accounts of everyday life under COVID-19 and the enduring pressures facing particular groups within the older population. The Introduction outlines the aims of the book, which is to provide a contribution to understanding the social dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis. It draws upon novel qualitative longitudinal research which recorded the experiences of a diverse group of people aged 50 and over, in a variety of situations and locations across Greater Manchester, England. The women and men were interviewed over three ‘lockdowns’, covering a 12-month period of the pandemic. The analysis explores the strategies they adopted to minimise the effect of COVID-19 on their lives, and the extent to which social distancing created new vulnerabilities for some of those interviewed. In doing this, an important aim of the book is to advance sociological understanding about the effect of COVID-19, both on older people as well as the social networks of which they are a part. The book develops an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the unequal impact of COVID-19 across the older population. Bringing together these different approaches supports a better understanding of the full impact of the pandemic on older people, the organisations working on their behalf, and the communities in which they live.

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The Conclusion draws together the main themes of the book, highlighting the challenges older people faced when forced to ‘stay apart’ from family and friends. The discussion identifies changes affecting people over time through three successive lockdowns. The authors call for greater attention to the impact of the pandemic on older people, to counter negative social attitudes towards ageing where the older population are increasingly presented as a burden on communities. As well as providing a detailed account of the ways that people organised their everyday lives and supported others in their households and neighbourhoods, the analysis also shows how the pandemic placed a ‘spotlight’ on the precarity and unmet needs of some groups of older adults, such as those living alone, or from ethnic minority backgrounds. The conclusion argues that insights from these observations must form the starting point for how we understand the changing needs of older groups in their communities, as well as develop effective policies for supporting people during a period of crisis such as that represented by COVID-19. The discussion also suggests that the policy concepts of ‘age-friendly’ and ‘ageing in place’ must be updated with a deeper understanding of the changing conditions of daily life for older people brought about by COVID-19.

Open access

This chapter presents a discussion of some of the cross-cutting issues which arose across the empirical chapters. The discussion focuses on two main elements of our findings: general experiences of daily life under the pandemic and issues, and concerns relevant to the future care and support of older people. The chapter suggests that the pandemic exposed the fragility of pre-pandemic lives of some older people, and the challenges faced in dealing with the crisis associated with COVID-19. The pandemic made people see existing spaces and engage with old activities in new ways, while simultaneously making underlying inequalities more apparent. It is certainly the case that for those detached from online communication, life was considerably restricted during the lockdowns. The possibility of these participants falling further behind as digital communication becomes a more important part of everyday life seems likely. The findings also emphasise how many people were concerned about whether they would ever regain their independence after lockdown restrictions were lifted, particularly those who suffered from mental and physical health problems.

Open access