9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN01 Ageing in Europe

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Intergenerational Relationships: Grandparenthood Building II, C5.06

Reciprocal Social Support in Older Adults: Secular Trends and Longitudinal Changes over a 16-year Follow-Up

Background: Studies of long duration and cohort comparisons offer the opportunity to determine whether there are changes in reciprocal social support in older people and to study different cohorts of older subjects at the same chronological age. Making use of gerontological population studies in Jyväskylä, Finland we investigated secular and longitudinal changes in reciprocal social support in 65-74-year-old men and women.
Methods. 362 persons born in 1919-1923 were interviewed in 1988, 1996 and 2004. Longitudinal analyses were conducted in a 16-year follow-up in three measurement points. 635 men and women aged 65 to 74 years (born in 1914-1923) participated in baseline study in year 1988. From those, in the second interview occasion in year 1996, 410 men and women participated and in year 2004 260 took part in the study. Reciprocal social support was studied on the basis of the frequency seeing one?s children and grandchildren; and perceptions of the adequacy of these contacts and by asking the respondents how often and in how many different tasks they helped someone.
Results: Cohort comparisons showed that the frequency of seeing one?s children and grandchildren had decreased in the most recent cohort, and the number of contacts was considered inadequate. Longitudinal analyses showed that although meaning of children as the closest persons increased, the meeting with them became sparser. Helping others is more common in the recent cohort, but in longitudinal analyses it decreased with advanced age.
Discussion: Finnish people at retirement provide social support more readily than before,
but they do not get social support as much as they want from their offsprings. This might indicate that in an individualistic society instrumental help is given when needed, but informal intergenerational interaction is not valued as such. There is a need for actions to further promote the intergenerational exchange in older adults both in individual and societal level.