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Applying sociological approach to studying older people’s well-being

Name
Ekaterina
Surname
Anikina
Scientific organization
National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University
Academic degree
Ph.D
Position
Associate Professor
Scientific discipline
Humanities & Social sciences
Topic
Applying sociological approach to studying older people’s well-being
Abstract
An important tendency in the development of the recent research of the problem concerning older people’s well-being is studying not so much the objective indicators of economic and social development as the subjective anticipations and preferences whose aggregation enables to obtain a more complete picture of reality through the prism of subjects’ attitude to what is going on. This task can be handled with the application of the questioning technique. Practice of social approach to studying the problem of well-being has been analyzed and its necessity has been reasoned.
Keywords
social research, older people’s well-being, well-being factors, well-being indicators
Summary

Studying well-being aspects was based on the devised evaluation method, which includes the social research method. Application of the sociological approach allowed studying well-being from the perspective of real status of a person in different spheres of life; from the standpoint of perceiving this status and the level of satisfaction; through the spectacle of perceiving objective living conditions in society including those which are directly related to satisfying the requirements of the people belonging to the “third age” (the quality of health service, accommodation, housing and utilities services, social security and social services; the level of income and priorities in spending money; consumed services; leisure activities; societal problems older people are concerned about, etc.); from the standpoint of emotional disposition and vision of the future.

The process of detecting and forming the system of factors influencing the level of well-being consisted of five stages. The first stage was devoted to selecting significant factors reflecting the major processes, then there were determined the assumptions required for simplifying the process of detecting and forming the system of external factors influencing the level of the older people’s well-being. At the third stage the well-being was evaluated on the basis of the distinguished factors. Afterwards, there were suggested the hypotheses and supposition concerning the cause-and-effect relationship between the factors and well-being of the people falling into the category of the “third age”. And, finally, the analytical procedure was finalized by drawing conclusions.

The basic condition for choosing indicators was represented by the direct link between an indicator (action) and the characteristic which this indicator must detect. The more sensitive indicators possessing a more precise accuracy grade were chosen from the group of indicators characterizing the subject of research. When building the indicators, there were taken into account the objective and factual data and subjective feelings as well as international experience of measuring the standards of living in the developed countries, particularly, the key indicators of Active Ageing Index for age groups (level of employment, participation in public life, independent and safe living, opportunities for active ageing).

The major research method applied was questionnaire survey conducted by means of semi-structured interview. The opinion surveys form which was approved during the pilot studies in 2014 and completed with regard to the results of the research conducted in 2014 was used. The form included the questions on the following key blocks of socio-economic and emotional well-being: economic status, health and medical support, physical activity, social activity, using information technologies in everyday life, life satisfaction.

The measurement method includes simple, direct evaluation techniques based on using single questions and scales. The form was developed on the bases of nominal and ordinal scales. Application of scaling technique enabled to quantify the values, characterizing the process under research, assign numerical and symbolic series, and consider the degree, quantity and frequency of manifestation of the event under investigation collectively and separately. The following event was quantified: economic, social and emotional well-being. The subjective distinction acted as the unit of measurement.

Well-being measures of quality indexes were determined with regard to the requirements within the social parameters comprising integrated values and reflecting the sense of being successful or unsuccessful; unambiguity of interpreting the parameters being set by the respondents belonging to different age groups; accommodation of changes in the standard of living. Proving the reliability of indexes (points) and scales was made with the accordance to the internal consistency on the basis of Cronbach’s alpha and splitting coefficients. The form includes screening questions aimed at checking the respondents’ answers unambiguity.

The method of combined sampling was used for selecting survey units. The sampling mentioned is based on the following principle: routing sample (survey initial points were assigned); quota sample (control values quotas are proportionate to the parameters of the general population with regard to gender, age and place of residence).

General population is represented by people who are 55 years of age and older and live in Tomsk region. The size of general population is 229000 representatives (according to the results of the Russian Census of 2010), 154300 of them live in cities and 74680 live in the country. With the stated size of general population it is sufficient to survey 400 people (calculation was carried out on the basis of confidential interval formulae by using the following calculator http://www.fdfgroup.ru/?id=189). Under condition of the given size (400 persons) the sampling error (standard deviation) on the grounds of control values with confidence probability (accuracy) equal to 95% falls within the limits of ±4.9%, i.e. in case of conducting 100 research with such kind of sampling, 95% of the answers, according to the law of statistics, will range within ±4.9% from the initial one. Confidence probability is 95%, which complies with the practice of conducting sociological research in Russia and international community.

Gender and age distribution (statistical values) in sampled population corresponds to the parameters on these characteristics in general population. When calculating the sampling on the ground of gender and age the results of the Russian Census of 2010 were applied. Gender structure reflects the general situation in Russia, i.e. the correlation of older men and women is 1 to 2 respectively. Gender and age distribution (statistical values) in sampled population corresponds to the parameters on these characteristics in general population.

The subject of research was averaged out on the grounds of gender, age, place of residence, educational background, and employment. Furthermore, the subject of research was averaged out on the following grounds: optimism/pessimism, life satisfaction, and predominant emotional disposition with the purpose of hypothesis justification.

On the basis of research outcomes there was created the profile of an average pensioner living in Tomsk region.

An average pensioner is described as follows: a 60-65 years old woman living in a city, married or widowed, with secondary vocational education, a former employee. She is currently unemployed but owns a home garden, which is an additional source of getting food, place of spending free time (a hobby) and method of following family traditions simultaneously. The need for labour is expressed in the intention to work on the personal home garden.

Generally, the obtained results complement the database of older people’s well-being indicators. The database was established in a laboratory and is applied for studying the impact of various factors on life satisfaction and behavior of older people in the mentioned region.