Communities of place and communities of interest? An exploration of their changing role in later life
Means, R. and Evans, S. (2012) Communities of place and communities of interest? An exploration of their changing role in later life. Ageing and Society, 32 (8). pp. 1300-1318. ISSN 0144-686X Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/16087
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X11000961
Social gerontologists have long grappled with the meaning of ‘community’ to older people. This paper lies within this tradition and focuses on the extent to which the past emphasis upon communities of place needs to be rebalanced or rethought in the light of emerging evidence for the growing engagement of older people in communities of interest linked to friendships, enthusiasms and their increasing spending power. This theoretical paper highlights the traditional emphasis on the role of community and place in later life and explores the emergence of a debate about communities of interest linked to such factors as the ‘discovery’ of ‘the Third Age’, marketisation, consumerism, the importance of social interaction in the lives of many older people, and the impact of the internet and virtual communities. This debate is placed in an international policy context in which numerous governments are concerned about the greying of the global population and the consequent desire to promote ‘ageing well’ to offset resultant health and social care costs. The paper argues for a reconceptualisation of community through a more sophisticated view of ‘place’ and ‘interest’ that avoids false dichotomies between the two and acknowledges the impact of social, economic and cultural change upon the lives of older people.