A Qualitative Approach of Fourth Agers' Experiences of Long-Term Care: Comparing France, Switzerland and Sweden.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Pauline MESNARD, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Questioning the reality of the fourth age implies that one addresses first the issues of the social and political contexts in which it was recently created. This new/last life stage indeed represents a target of eldercare policies to differentiate between older care consumers and third agers characterized by their capacity to achieve “active ageing”. I argue that what makes the fourth age “real” are the experiences of the relationship of dependency between care receivers and society. It is not so much a matter of determining a numerical threshold when “entering” the fourth age as of considering a social position in relation to society. “Active aging” as an ideology of autonomy makes the study of the “patterns” of dependency in old age crucial to understand the social meaning of the fourth age. This contribution aims at providing a critical sociological insight into the way fourth agers deal with the issues of long-term care by investigating the relationship of dependency that “structure” eldercare networks. The comparative study between several cultural contexts reveals the normative content of this specific relationship. The different types of regulation of that particular tie show that the social meanings of the fourth age vary according to several factors such as national solidarity regimes, familial cultures and individual economic and social resources. Using a comprehensive approach, the contribution focuses on the everyday experiences of older people in long-term care living at home across three European countries. A qualitative survey has been conducted in France, Switzerland and Sweden to study how fourth agers negotiate their autonomy in everyday life with their carers. In sum, this contribution is an attempt to understand what characterizes the identity of fourth agers in several cultural contexts focusing on the collective regulation and subjective meaning of the relationship of dependency.