Comparative Patterns of Commitment: Old Age Interest Groups and their Members in the Swiss Welfare State
IEPI University of Lausanne Lausanne, Switzerland
Many searchers have shown that the number of Old Age Interest groups has strongly increased in Western countries over the last 30 years (Pratt, 1993 ; Charpentier & Queniart, 2007). This increase is perceived sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, but is rarely structured with an analysis of the values or of the goals carried out by the members of such organizations. Searchers (Day, 1998; Binstock, 1997) give us in particular little information on the reasons why the elderly decide to get involved. In this paper we would like to question the diversity of the "types" or "reasons" of commitment that we can find in such organizations and therefore offer some elements to understand the "form" or the "direction" that these organizations take.
The possibility of the commitment of elderly persons in Old Age Interest Groups can be in connection with several determining elements: the associative or militant offer available for the elderly, the public image of the groups, which is always variable, and the social characteristics and careers of the members (Fillieule, 2001). Analyzing biographical interviews carried out with members of the main Old Age Interest Groups in Switzerland has enabled us to study how members become involved in these organizations, what place this involvement occupies in their life, what kind of activity they pursue there and finally what connections can be made between their social characteristics and the role they can play in these organizations (Gerth & Mills, 1954). Our paper will show that these organizations are less a place where the strict concerns of the pensioners are defended than places where the people who where involved in different types of organizations during their life can carry on their life-long struggles. Similarly the choice of the "modus operandi" by the Old Age Interest groups is less strictly structured by the present situation of the elderly than by their experiences in other social organizations. Thus new types of explanations can be given to the emergence and the positioning of the Old Age Interest groups.