Social and democratic participation in residential settings for older people: realities and aspiration


This paper explores some of the experiences of older people living in residential settings (sheltered, very sheltered housing and residential care), in the context of theories of participation, consumerism and citizenship. It draws on material from personal interviews undertaken with over 100 older people in England and Wales, and also from discussions with staff. Two-thirds of respondents were aged over 85. A significant minority of residents expressed some concerns about the routines of life, such as meals and social contact. Staff expectations of social participation were often unrealistic : for many residents, social contact was more a matter of adjustment than of friendship. Residents did not participate in deciding how the residential settings where they lived should be organised and managed, except for helping with simple domestic tasks. There is a need to change both attitudes and practice to enable older people to participate more fully in these settings

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