Male Caregivers in Self-Help-Organizations for the Elderly
Fachbereich Sozialwesen Universität Kassel Kassel, Germany
Germany as a democratic welfare state is subject to ongoing transformation processes including demographic change, increasing lifestyle diversity and shifting gender relations.
In view of this, both politics and the scientific approaches have become more attentive to the way the "third" and "fourth" ages of life are structured, giving rise to debates on the necessity of developing new ways of dealing with the increasing demand for care work, a field in which the resources and skills of the elderly themselves receive increasingly attention.
The proposed paper is based on the results of a qualitative study funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation which analyses the opportunities and risks presented by the convergence of newly re-structured social insurance systems in western welfare states with current demographic change.
The paper deals with voluntary care work provided by elderly citizens, with a particular focus on male caregivers, a subject in which until now scant research has been done in sociology, gerontology and gender studies. In-depth interviews carried out as part of the study with both male and female volunteers in self-help organisations for the elderly reveal that males engage in an unanticipated amount of reproductive labour in the voluntary sector.
Compared with previous studies on males caring for spouses, the reasons stated by our male interviewees for engaging in care-work areas different as the tasks and amount of care-work they carry out. However, our data also suggest an overlap in the statements made by the two groups, in particular when it comes to the interpretation and evaluation of reproductive labour by the interviewees, obviously influenced by their personal biographies and their male identities. In view of this, this paper will discuss this overlap in light of the qualitative studies carried out by Kirsi et al. in Finland on elder males giving care for their spouses. As well as delivering empirical results, the paper will discuss the research design applied to the study and theoretical implications for care work conceptions.