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Title: Ageing well in the community : social representations of well-being promotion in later life
Author: Medeiros, Bruno
ISNI:       0000 0004 7225 6478
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis is a social psychological study on ideas of well-being in later life by older adults, staff members, and volunteers involved in community support. Social representations theory constitutes the theoretical lens through which social constructions of well-being are examined. This project constitutes an ethnography of how groups represent wellness in later life, and how they evaluate receiving and giving support. Three day centres and a scheme of home visits of a voluntary organisation in the United Kingdom were the main sites of this study. Participant observation and 54 in-depth interviews were the main data sources. The study shows that both clients and practitioners understand wellness in later life as the result of an active, independent, and gainful living. This idea was shared amongst all groups in both settings, indicating the prevalence of a hegemonic view of wellness. This view is present in public understandings and professional discourse on ageing well. Nevertheless, clients and practitioners also challenged this ideology of wellness by representing ageing both as experience of gains (e.g. vitality and autonomy) and limitations (e.g. frailty and social isolation). These views are represented via two binary oppositional themes: activity-passivity and independence dependence. Moreover, clients and practitioners highlight the importance of health, adaptation, and relationships of support to attain well-being in old age. The concept of canonic themata and the evidence of a complex representational field around the theme of ageing constitute important empirical insights with which to understand the sharedness of well-being amongst all groups. Differences were observed in the way in which clients and practitioners position themselves – the first groups as receivers of help, whereas the second one as providers of care. Moreover, clients represent themselves as active and independent despite being recipients of support. In negotiating their views of independence, they preserve a positive sense of identity and accept help from others. Cognitive polyphasia also characterises thinking about well-being: physical, psychological, social, and material elements interact to promote wellness. The study also sheds light on how communities of support make sense of their practices. The concept of representational project offered a rich theoretical insight into how groups represent well-being promotion in the charity. Both clients and practitioners represent well-being promotion as actions to preserve functionality and participation in the community. Therefore, two set of actions were mentioned in both settings: socio-emotive and practical support. Implications for well-being policies and community support were addressed.
Supervisor: Foster, Juliet Sponsor: Cambridge International Trust ; Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES - Brazil)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Ageing ; Ageing well ; Psychological well-being ; Social Representations ; Gerontology ; Community ; United Kingdom