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  • Author or Editor: Vanessa Burholt x
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Older people, community and place in rural britain

Older people in the countryside are vastly under-researched compared to those in urban areas. This innovative volume, the first project-based book in the New Dynamics of Ageing series, offers a unique interdisciplinary perspective on this issue, focusing on older people’s role as assets in rural civic society. It demonstrates how the use of diverse methods from across disciplines aims to increase public engagement with this research. The authors examine the ways in which rural elders are connected to community and place, the contributions they make to family and neighbours, and the organisations and groups to which they belong. Highly topical issues around later life explored through these perspectives include older people’s financial security, leisure, access to services, transport and mobility, civic engagement and digital inclusion – all considered within the rural context in an era of fiscal austerity. In doing so, this book challenges problem-based views of ageing rural populations through considering barriers and facilitators to older people’s inclusion and opportunities for community participation in rural settings. Countryside Connections is a valuable text for students, researchers and practitioners with interests in rural ageing, civic engagement and interdisciplinary methods, theory and practice.

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This chapter describes the background and guiding interdisciplinary framework of the GaPL research programme that forms the basis of this book. It outlines the aims and organisation of the volume highlighting the broad interdisciplinary approach that informed this study of how and in what ways older people are connected to civic society in rural settings. The chapter begins with a presentation of the case for greater research on older people in the countryside in light of global and national demographic trends in rural ageing. The predominantly problem-focused nature of previous research on older people in rural areas is described and the need for a perspective on older people as positive social assets in rural community life is established. The principal foci of the GaPL research are outlined and the process of synthesising diverse disciplinary perspectives into an integrative framework around the cross-cutting concept of ‘connectivity’ is explained. The location of the rural study sites and the rationale for their selection are outlined. The survey that underpinned the various parts of the GaPL research is described and findings on the sociodemographic characteristics of the survey sample are presented. Chapter One concludes with an overview of each of the remaining eight chapters.

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Governments promote increased social connectivity to give power and responsibility to citizens. In England and Wales this has led to many older people’s networks and active community participation by rural elders. This can be conceptualised through social capital which can be seen as both inclusive (bridging capital), or exclusionary (bonding capital), as well as functional or power-related. While Bourdieu’s capitals explore social, economic, cultural and symbolic assets, a human ecology conceptualisation complements these with a focus on the importance of place in developing connectivity. Here, macrosystems focus on national and international influences, exosystems on external influences, mesosystems on direct influences and microsystems on individual or personal space. Further, the chronosystem can also take temporal influences into account in examining connectivity from a conceptual standpoint.

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This chapter draws together the main findings and issues from this study of connectivity and older people in rural Britain. It begins by reviewing the main challenges of interdisciplinary research encountered during the project. It goes on to summarise not only the main dimensions of connectivity explored in detail in earlier chapters such as civic engagement, social participation and connecting to landscape but also key barriers such as poor health and digital exclusion. These findings are then conceptualised in terms of both social capital and critical human ecology theory. The chapter concludes by drawing out policy and practice implications with an emphasis upon the dangers of increasing inequality for lower income rural elders at a time of austerity with its consequent emphasis upon community self-help. However, the overall message of the book is that it is still important to celebrate rural elders the majority of whom are well connected to their locale and hence making an important and varied contribution to community life.

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In the face of population ageing, governments and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) are concerned about the ability of countries to provide social protection for ageing populations. In India, families are mandated to take care of their older members. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (MSJE 2007), states that parents, grandparents and ‘childless’ older people who are unable to maintain themselves are entitled to demand and receive income, care and support from children, grandchildren and other relatives who have sufficient resources. Cases (where support is not forthcoming) can be taken to tribunal and can result in the issue of maintenance orders with penalties for non-compliance including fines and imprisonment. Thus, there is a reliance on informal social protection. However, changes in family structures, family values, migration of family members and a rise in the number of women working outside of the home can put increasing strain on families to provide support. Traditional forms of solidarity and collectivism are eroded by market economies: increasing monetisation impacts on forms of reciprocity, and requirement for a responsive mobile labour force impacts on availability. Thus, it is important to challenge the ‘realities’ of family support systems, which may not be as robust as portrayed by policy makers. However, little is known about the choices that are available to older people around care, support and/or housing in later and the decisions that are made based on these choices. Relocating to care homes may be for personal care, but also due to the failure of legal systems to protect individuals from harm and to avoid abuse or family conflict. This chapter draws on data from 30 in-depth interviews with older male and female residents in nine care homes in three districts of Tamil Nadu and addresses the following questions:

• What are the decision-making routes leading to entry into care homes?

• In which ways do families, communities, and legal systems (fail to) support older people prior to entry into a care home?

The chapter concludes by suggesting how stakeholders (NGOs, districts, the state and national government) can contribute to remodelling care provision, social work and legal systems to meet the needs of older adults in Tamil Nadu.

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We investigated family caring using established questions from national surveys of 1,206 adults aged 40+ from six minority ethnic communities in England and Wales. We included in our analysis factors that predisposed caring (age, sex, marital status and household composition) and enabled caring (health, material resources, education, employment and cultural values). In the general population, 15% of adults are family carers. Three groups reported lower levels of caring (Black African [12%], Chinese [11%] and Black Caribbean [9%]) and three reported higher levels of caring (Indian [23%], Pakistani [17%] and Bangladeshi [18%]). However, ethnicity predicted caring independent of other factors only for the Indian group.

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This chapter reviews the literature on place attachment and then empirically tests conceptual models of place attachment (based on the literature) to identify the predictors of, and the pathways to, place attachment. The results of the mediation analysis demonstrate that there are distinct pathways to three kinds of connectivity between older people and the places in which they live: social attachment to place, aesthetic attachment to place and amenity/ environment-oriented physical attachment. The results demonstrate that there are discrete types of place attachment which are differentially influenced by social or environmental factors at each level of the ecological model and by the passage of time. We reflect on the applicability of our findings to those from Canadian rural communities that formed a parallel project to the UK research.

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