Ageing and Social, Civic, and Political Participation

By: Teresa Alves Martins   João Nunes   Isabel Dias   Isabel Menezes  

There have been intense debates on the significance of social, civic, and political participation of elder citizens. Portugal is the country with the third highest ageing index in Europe, 153.2% in 2017, and therefore the topic is particularly relevant. Our focus is on the experiences of citizens over sixty years who are members of different organizations recognized as spaces for social, civic, and/or political participation. This paper is based on a total of sixteen interviews to identify the main motivations and obstacles to participation. Using thematic analysis our findings shows that citizens over sixty have many and varied experiences in these organizations. In some cases they are founding members, especially of senior universities and groups that promote senior citizens’ rights. In fact, the engagement in specific contexts for elderly people (e.g. senior universities or volunteer groups for the elderly) and the feeling of ‘being useful’ to the community are the main motivations mentioned by the interviewees. Many also mention that their involvement with those entities is due to an invitation or to an external challenge. As for barriers, they identify issues like economic restraints or lack of information, family duties (namely looking over their grandchildren), disbelief in the associative institutions or in the usefulness of their own participation efforts. We discuss how these findings relate to research on the motivations and barriers felt by other age groups, and reflect upon policies and practices that promote or restrict the opportunities for elderly citizens to participate and learn in today’s society.

Elderly participation, Lifelong-learning, Ageing
2019 Special Focus - Aging in Times of New Nationalisms: Inequalities, Participation, and Policies
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Teresa Alves Martins

PHD Candidate , ICBAS.UP , ICBAS.UP/ CINTESIS, Portugal

Professor João Nunes

João Arriscado Nunes is Full Professor of Sociology at the School of Economics and Senior Researcher at the Center for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal, of which he was Executive Director (1998-2000). He is co-coordinator of the Doctoral Program "Governance, Knowledge and Innovation) and a member of the Advisory Council of the Portuguese Sociological Association. He was a member of the coordinating team of the project ALICE - Strange Mirrors, Unexpected Lessons, directed by Boaventura de Sousa Santos and funded by the European Research Council (2011-2016). In 2011-2012, he was Visiting Researcher at Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (FIOCRUZ) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His research interests include social studies of science and technology (namely social studies of biomedicine, health and the life sciences and public engagement with science and technology), political sociology (democracy and participation), Human Rights and social theory. He is the co-editor of Enteados de Galileu: A Semiperiferia no Sistema Mundial da Ciência (Porto: Afrontamento, 2001, with Maria Eduarda Gonçalves); Reinventing Democracy: Grassroots Movements in Portugal (London: Routledge, 2006, with Boaventura de Sousa Santos), The Dynamics of Patient Organizations in Europe (Paris: Presses de l'École des Mines, with Madeleine Akrich, Florence Patterson and Vololona Rabeharisoa); Objectos Impuros: Experiências em Estudos Sobre a Ciência (Porto: Afrontamento, 2008, with Ricardo Roque). Recently, he was Principal Investigator of the projects "Science Engaging Society: Life Sciences, Social Sciences and Publics" (BIOSENSE) and "Evaluating the State of Public Knowledge on Health and Health Information in Portugal" (Harvard Medical School - Portugal Program), both funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology, Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education. He was a participant in other national and international research projects (as a coordinator of the Portuguese teams), including "European Patient Organizations in the Knowledge Society" - EPOKS"; "Deepening Ethical Engagement and Participation in Emerging Nanotechnologies - DEEPEN"; "Researching Inequality through Science and Technology - ResIST", "Governance, Health and Medicine. Opening Dialogue between Social Scientists and Users - MEDUSE", all funded by the European Commission, as well as a member of the Steering Committees of the networks European Neuroscience and Society Network - European Science Foundation and Public Health Genomics European Network - PHGEN (EC). He acted as the coordinator of the Portuguese team of the international project "Reinventing Social Emancipation", directed by Boaventura de Sousa Santos and funded by the MacArthur and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundations.

Isabel Dias

Full professor , Instituto de Sociologia - U. Porto , Portugal

Isabel Menezes

Full professor , CIIE.FPCEUP, Portugal