Social Capital in Late Life: The Case of Chilean Older People

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 3:00 PM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
Maria-Jose TORREJON , Sociology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Chile is experiencing an accelerated process of population aging. People aged 60 and older currently constitute 13% of the population. This proportion is projected to reach 28% in 2050. In this context, questions have raised about the quantity and quality of older people’s social capital due to the decrease in family size and changes at the value level related to more individualized societies. The theory of individualization proposed by Beck and Beck-Gernsheim states that in today’s society people are less bounded by traditional forms of representation and control. At the level of personal ties, this means that family members would relate to and help one another because they ‘want’ and not because they ‘must’ do so. However, the latter does not necessarily implies negative consequences on older people’s social capital, but rather it may produce a change of scenario. That personal ties can be developed based on voluntariness also means that older people can invest in relationships outside their nuclear family. From this stance, the practical and emotional help required by older people could be also sought in friendship relations and weak ties. Drawing on in-depth interviews with people between 60 and 75 years old living in the city of Santiago and secondary analysis of focus groups I aim to investigate whether the nuclear family is still the predominant source of social capital or, instead, older people are replacing and/or complementing family resources with other types of ties (e.g. friend, neighbors and/or state).