Do Social Activities Promote Age Integration in Social Networks? A Comparison of Age Cohorts across Regions of Europe

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Haosen SUN, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Canada
Markus SCHAFER, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Canada
Do social activities promote age integration in social networks? A comparison of age cohorts across regions of Europe

Haosen Sun

Markus Schafer

University of Toronto

Department of Sociology


Older adults face the risk of being segregated from broader society, a process believed to be detrimental to their well-being. The age composition of one’s core social network is a practical indicator of age-segregation and potential social exclusion. Little research, however, has considered the role of social activities in promoting the inclusion of non-kin, age-varied people in one’s network. Using the SHARE (Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe) Wave 6 data from 19 countries in Europe, we examine the associations between multiple social activities (paid work, voluntary activities, courses, clubs, community/political organizations, interactive games) and the odds of having an age-integrated social network. We also examine potential variation in this association across regions of Europe. Our conceptualization of age-integration is reciprocal. We incorporate (a) “upward” age-integration defined as whether those in late-middle age and young-old age (i.e., those 50-59 and 60-69 years old) maintain at least one non-kin network member from an older cohort (>=10 years older than the respondent); and (b) “downward” age-integration that is whether someone in young-old, middle-old, and old-old age (i.e., those 60-69, 70-79, 80-89, respectively) maintains at least one non-kin network member from a younger cohort (>=10 years younger than the respondent). Findings show that employment limits upward age-integration while promoting downward age-integration, particularly in Northern and Central Europe. Voluntary activities facilitate downward age integration in Central, Southern and Eastern Europe among the middle-old and old-old groups, while in Northern Europe they benefit age-integration both ways for the young-old age group. We discuss our findings in the context of cultural differences across regions of Europe and elaborate their relevance for theories of age integration and social exclusion.