"I'm busy, but I have time for myself" - Gender as a determining factor of active aging
Department of Sociology University of West Bohemia Czech Republic,
Data presented in this paper are based on qualitative ethnographic study of two centres in Czech Republic that offer leisure-time activities only for the elderly (for example educational courses, social activities, exercise programs, etc.). The participant observation was conducted for twenty months and more than sixty people (clients, employees) were interviewed during the research. These centres in Czech Republic represent space that is strongly centred round the idea of active aging. Despite the fact that active aging is nowadays represented by the state and provides of social services as the universal desirable way of aging, the majority of the clients of the center are women. This paper focuses on this gender difference in the lifestyle in old age. It points out that gender patterns are embedded the organizing of the daily running of the centers as well as in the idea of active aging itself. The paper highlights two explanations of gender differences in the attitudes towards active aging. The first is based on women's own explanation of why men are missing in the centers and are not so active in old age. The second stresses the gendered patterns during the life course. The paper explains the gender disproportion through the way people in the centers relate to the experience of aging. Women attending the centers share very similar lifestyles and positive attitude towards old age that stresses the possibility to fulfill time according to one's own wishes. This paper analyzes this attitude in the context of previous life biography to explain the role of gender in the lifestyle in old age. It also highlights the specific disciplination of the body through the idea of active aging that share some similar features with the way women's bodies are disciplined during the previous life course. The aim of the paper is to critically evaluate the idea of active aging and point out the crucial role of gender as a factor that influences the ability or/and willingness to age actively and the role of activity during the life course.