The family and community life of older people: household composition and social networks in three urban areas



Phillipson C, Bernard M, Phillips J & Ogg J (1998) The family and community life of older people: household composition and social networks in three urban areas. Ageing and Society, 18 (3), pp. 259-289.

The post-war period has witnessed considerable change in England affecting family structures and social relationships both within, and between, the generations. In this paper, we report on research which has examined the impact of these changes on the lives of older people. Three urban areas: Bethnal Green and Woodford in London, and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, are the locations for this project. All three were the subject of classic community studies in the 1940s and 1950s, providing rich material about the family and community life of older people. Using these as a baseline, we have examined changes to the social and family networks of older people over the intervening years. Our research comprised a questionnaire-based survey of 627 older people, followed-up one year later by a series of in-depth interviews with 62 people over the age of 75 (and 19 second generation members in their networks). We also undertook 35 interviews with Indian and Bangladeshi elders in Wolverhampton and Bethnal Green. Findings reported concern the living arrangements of older people and their relationships with network members. In particular, we note the marked trend towards solo living or living in married pairs amongst the white population, and the importance of multi-generation households amongst the two minority ethnic groups. Together with the enduring importance of family and the significance of friends, there are also crucial differences, notably in the ways people maintain contact with members of their networks.

Social networks; households; family; community

Ageing and Society: Volume 18, Issue 3

Publication date31/05/1998
Publication date online08/09/2000
Date accepted by journal07/10/1997
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publisher URL…0144686X98006898

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