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Same as it ever was? Intergenerational Relationships: A neighbourhood case study Lynn Johnston, Phd candidate.

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Presentation on theme: "Same as it ever was? Intergenerational Relationships: A neighbourhood case study Lynn Johnston, Phd candidate."— Presentation transcript:

1 Same as it ever was? Intergenerational Relationships: A neighbourhood case study Lynn Johnston, Phd candidate

2 Outline Setting the scene – background The research The research findings How these relate to policy discussions

3 Background Global ageing demographic Challenges for society: Economic doom, social problems Pressure on intergenerational relations Public discourses: ‘Anti-social’, out of control youth and frail and vulnerable elderly

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5 The research- my approach ‘Critical’ research: ‘A more value committed approach…a commitment not just to understand the social construction of ageing, but to change it..’ (Phillipson and Walker, 1987,p 12) ‘…we do whatever we do with passion and a belief that our scholarship can make a difference: that is, move people to action.’ (Holstein and Minkler, 2007, p 26)

6 The research – my approach What is the state of intergenerational relationships in the neighbourhood at this time and what social mechanisms impact on these relationships? Connecting historical and political considerations with contemporary personal stories and public concerns What Mills, (1959) calls the ‘Sociological Imagination’

7 The research – the place Public built housing estate outside Belfast Approx 800 households: 1500 residents 92% Protestant 23% under census data 16% over 60 NIMDM shows the estate’s deprivation statistics as getting worse from 2005 to 2010 – approaching the bottom10%

8 The research – what I did Community survey Interviews – residents and stakeholders Small group discussions Church/community/youth groups Primary 7 Children Volunteered in community office one morning a week for over a year

9 Research Findings : Three issues 1.Mind the gap – perceptions about age 2. A place apart – the isolation of the place 3. The legacy of the conflict – ‘paramiltary’

10 Issue 1: Mind the gap The denial of ageing ‘… [old age is] really more to do with lifestyle, and when your priorities change.’ (interview notes, female, 20s). ‘Well, age doesn’t matter to me.... I mean age, you can see yourself getting older and OK you get a bit slower and you maybe can’t do the running that you used to do but, em, I think just inside your head, age is maybe perceived more by other people than actually you yourself..’ (J, female, 60s).

11 Mind the gap – perceptions of youth Negative perceptions about young people, from all ages of participants, including young people But they are ‘not all bad’ Parenting to blame Childhood as changed

12 Words associated with the word ‘young’ (2 fourteen –year- old boys)

13 Post-it note used by Primary Seven children to describe ‘young’

14 Mind the gap – perceptions of old ‘The older people are still fearful of the young ones,… I mean on numerous occasions when we’ve been round the doors and you ask them about coming out maybe for a Christmas party and things like that, the older people are still scared to answer their doors…’ (male, 40s, resident) Views of older family members usually more positive than views of older people generally in the neighbourhood.

15 Primary 7 girl’s drawing of an old person

16 Drawing of an old person by a nine- year-old boy

17 Issue 2: A place apart Location of estate: the original settlers shared hardships A ‘tight’ community: belonging, staying put A strong and defensive pride to counteract negative prejudice from outsiders Preference to keep things internal

18 ‘There was no road, the kerb edge was there but it wasn’t tarmacked … it was like a building site..’ (male, 60s). ‘It was really the pits. I didn’t even think you got the same television here!.... I hated it!’ (female,60s). ‘It was very tight. At the back of my mum this woman... if anyone wanted a haircut they didn’t go up the town, they went to her. Her husband was the lemonade man, so know what I mean?’ (female, 40s) ‘Oh, that’s where they eat their children.’ (male non-resident, 20s) ‘I think it’s the best estate in the town…’ (female, 60s) ‘I wouldn’t move out of here for love nor money.’ (female, 60s)

19 Issue 3: The legacy of the conflict Overwhelming presence of ‘paramiltary’ group in the estate Two tiered accountability system Acting between generations

20 ‘Something happens every few months, maybe 4 or 5 times a year you would hear of somebody being beaten up or having their kneecaps done’ (notes from conversation with a teenage boy) ‘...kids would have that fear that if they are caught doing something then they gonna be, I mean, like, visited by the paramilitaries or whatever..’ (F, male, 40s). ‘...we live in a place where there will not be a threat to the pensioners, they will do it once and they will not do it again if you know what I mean? And, em, that’s it, the leaders in this estate won’t let them get away with it, that’s it.’ (L, female,60s).

21 Summary of the social influences on intergenerational relationships in the case study Perceptions of youth as being in need of discipline and older people as being in need of protection An isolated and insular neighbourhood A local group willing to act as the disciplinarian

22 Summary of the social influences on intergenerational relationships: Ambivalence Views of young and old contradictory: evidence of both conflict and solidarity Resident’s pride and shame of place Conflicting views about the actions of the ‘paramiltary’ – a brutal service which is often useful Social ambivalences create tense spaces where inequality can flourish

23 Issue 1: Perceptions about young and old – Policy implications Policy to tackle ageism Extension of law to cover goods and services must cover all ages, not just older people Intergenerational contact at local level Recognise it is not a case of conflict or solidarity between generations, but both co-exist

24 Issue 2: A place apart – Policy implications Opening dialogue by building relationships between statutory sectors workers and estate residents. (continuous service of community PSNI officers, community development approach to health) Genuinely seek and act on the guidance from local people as to what the key social issues are and how they should be addressed Recognition that highly contextualised problems require highly contextualised solutions

25 Issue 3: The legacy of the conflict – Policy implications No social policy will be able to tackle social exclusion without tackling ongoing ‘paramiltary’ neighbourhood control Services for young men tailored to their needs, locally based and long term Mechanisms which enable outsiders and residents to speak out in safety and share information more openly

26 Intergenerational relationships What is the state of intergenerational relationships in the neighbourhood at this time and what social mechanisms impact on these relationships? Personal Social Structural

27 ‘When you grow up with it you just get used to it’ (fourteen-year-old boy)

28 References: Holstein, M. and Minkler, M. (2007) ‘Critical gerontology: reflections for the 21st century’, in Bernard, M. and Scharf, T. (eds) Critical Perspectives on Ageing Societies, Bristol: Policy Press, pp Phillipson, C. and Walker, A. (1987) ‘The case for a critical gerontology’, in S. DeGregorio (ed) Social gerontology: new directions, London: Croom Helm, pp Mills, C. W. (1959) The Sociological Imagination, Oxford University Press

29 ‘When you grow up with it you just get used to it’ (fourteen-year-old boy)


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