The transition from employment to retirement in Europe has significantly changed in last three decades. Not only are years of service extending and the retirement age increasing, but pensions are also falling and they no longer guarantee decent life in many European countries. Retirement is a breaking point in a variety of ways: psychologically, it is seen as a developmental task, as a longer-term process, or a critical life event (Filipp and Olbrich, 1986), sociologically, the loss of identifying activities points to the loss of self, the loss of worthwhile projects that reflected one’s personality, also the loss of the meaning of life (Wijngaarden, Leget and Gossensen, 2015), and primarily as ‘a significant cut in their biographies’ (Schmidt-Hertha and Rees, 2017) that used to define men more but nowadays, because of their higher levels of employment, strongly defines women, too. Despite all the facts and research and with the clear transformations in social life and the increasingly more present re-definitions of gender identity and gender capital, politicians and the wider society in many countries (particularly in eastern Europe with no institutionalized pre-retirement programmes etc.) pretend that retirement is not a relevant or noteworthy change.
Krajnc (2016) acknowledges that making new meaning of life is a necessary preparation for a successful transition to retirement. Forcing older people to a social and psychological death after the retirement by not giving them an opportunity to fully experience the new life situation that they are entering can be devastating not only for them, but also for our society and the state (Krajnc, 2016). In their quantitative research study of more than 2.000 interviewees (men and women) aged between 50 and 69 years from Germany, Schmidt-Hertha and Rees (2017) found that satisfaction with the workplace in all stages of the career, positive perception of work and high personal identification with the workplace are crucial elements on the path to retirement or motivation for delaying retirement. This can also be seen facing the newly appearing practices of bridge employment (part-time work before retirement) and re-careering (second career after legal retirement) (Boveda and Metz, 2016). ‘Facing a pluralisation of transitions to the after-working phase of life, including different forms of intermediate stages, educational programs to design the transition and the stage of life after work, seems to be more relevant than ever.’ (Schmidt-Hertha and Rees, 2017, 51)
Also unpaid work and volunteering can be vital to the quality of older adults’ lives, especially if they can find self-realisation in such activities. Numerous longitudinal studies demonstrate a positive impact of volunteering on the quality of life (Moen, Dempster-McClain and Williams, 1992; Musick, Herzog and House, 1999; Van Willigen, 2000), while some studies evaluate it economically (Goth and Småland, 2014), proving that older adults are not only factors in the social development, but also economically relevant supporters and enormously important contributors to the community.
From above presented starting points, ELOA 2019 will study and discuss the following themes:
Besides already definded themes, 10th Conference of the ELOA will merge with the multiplier event of the Erasmus+ project Old Guys Say Yes to Community, developed by four partners from the ELOA network. It will thematise the pluralisation of transition to the after-working life phase with the emphasis on gender capital and the need to re-define gender capital in the third and fourth life stage. As revieled by the study Old Guys Say Yes to Community, significantly fewer men in the third and fourth life stages than women of the same age realise the importance of lifelong learning and of the advantages of active participation in the community. The low participation rates of older men in organised learning programmes and other free-time activities are evident from a number of research studies (Merriam and Kee, 2014; Schuller and Desjardins, 2007; Tett and Maclachlan, 2007), many of which link this to the men’s quality of life, which is lower than the opportunities available to them in their environments otherwise allow (Courtenay, 2000; Golding 2011a, 2011b; Oliffe and Han, 2014). Research also demonstrates that older men marginalise, isolate and alienate themselves more frequently than their female partners (McGivney, 2004; Williamson, 2011; Vandervoort, 2012; Holwerda et al., 2012), that they are more likely to be subjected to loneliness (Wang et al., 2002; Paúl and Ribeiro, 2009) and that they increasingly rely on their wives and life partners, depending on them emotionally as well as in terms of care, etc. (Vandervoort, 2012; Dettinger and Clarkberg, 2002).
Various statistical data, too, confirm that older men are less active than women. The largest discrepancy, in women’s favour, in participation in the community programmes of active ageing in the countries monitored by Eurostat found are in Sweden (14%), Denmark (9.9%), Finland (7.7%), Iceland (7%), Estonia (5.5%) and France (4.9%) (Eurostat, 2017). Although men are more active than women in Croatia, Germany, Turkey and Switzerland, the difference is practically negligible (between 0.2 and 0.6%) (Eurostat, 2017) and should be considered from cultural and religious aspects – but mainly through gender capital. The discrepancy in Slovenia is 3% in women’s favour (Eurostat, 2017), but men’s participation in various organised programmes of active ageing is substantially more limited: the average share of men in Activity Day Centres in Ljubljana is 15%, while Adult Education Centres and the Third Age University are similarly perceived as predominantly women’s organisations managed by women. The reasons for men’s non-participation in the existing activities are, among others, the feminisation of the learning programmes and their staff (Carragher and Golding, 2015; Owens, 2000), the negative perception of their schooling in the past (Mark and Golding, 2012; McGivney, 1999, 2004), the weakening of cognitive and social capital, which is part of the ageing process and which determines men more than women (Merriam and Kee, 2014; Schuller and Desjardins, 2007; Tett and Maclachlan, 2007), etc.
In view of all the reasons it is important to establish why older men in a number of countries, including Slovenia, have been, essentially speaking, excluded as relevant participants in society, because the consequences of their marginalisation are dramatic. The men’s exclusion and inactivity in the third and fourth life stages have a significant impact on the quality of their lives, on cognitive and mental capital (Golding, 2011a, 2011b, Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project, 2008), on emotional well-being (Williamson, 2011) and, of course, most importantly, on their health (Coutenay, 2000; Giles et al., 2005; Golden, Conroy and Lawlor, 2009; Schmidt-Hertha and Rees, 2017). Numerous social factors strongly influence health quality, too. In their meta-analytic review of 148 studies, Holt-Lunstad, Smith and Layton (2010) concluded that individuals with sufficient interpersonal relationships have a 50% increased likelihood of survival compared to those who are lonely.
Among the best examples of men’s (self-)organisation and its advantages scientific literature quotes the development of the Men’s Sheds mass movement in Australia (Golding, 2015; Golding, Mark and Foley, 2014), which has spread to Ireland, Scandinavia, the USA and Canada. Many researchers of men’s sheds have demonstrated, similarly to the findings of the Old Guys project, that men need (self-organised) spaces in which they can substitute for the lack of performance (the ‘career of male domination’) that is so important to them. There they can overcome the fear of having to prove themselves (again) and/or admit to not having their previous roles and adapt to the new ones (Gregorčič, Jelenc Krašovec, Radovan and Močilnikar, 2018). Most of all, however, they can mutually strengthen their mental capital – in addition to the already emphasised positive aspects of active ageing (Lum and Lightfoot, 2005; Ybarra et al., 2008; Williamson, 2011), the sense of belonging and the community (Goth and Småland, 2014), they can empower one another and, last but not least, prove to themselves that they are still needed and valued in contemporary society (Gottlieb and Gillespie, 2008).
The scientific and professional research suggests the need for men’s clubs, men’s sheds, men’s spaces and activities, men’s counselling centres and even safe houses where men can socialise with each other (Reynolds, Mackenzie, Medved and Roger, 2015) and mutual support and where they can self-organise and redefine masculine capital to achieve older men’s empowerment, etc. (Hanlon, 2012; Ribeiro, Paúl and Nogueira, 2007; Carragher and Golding, 2015; Huppatz and Goodwin, 2013; Jelenc Krašovec and Radovan, 2014). Additionally, in many countries instead of developing plurality of transitions to retirement with part-time or occasional employment, older adults are forced to work illegally because of poverty and adopt other survival strategies. Various studies indicate numerous ways of being an old guy in contemporary societies as well as many tendencies towards a redefinition of gender capital, work (employment) and retirement.
From above presented outlines of the Old Guys project, ELOA 2019 will study and discuss the following two themes:
Academic contributions addressing one or more of the topics mentioned above are cordially welcome.
Prepared by dr. Marta Gregorčič & dr. Bernhard Schmidt-Hertha
- Boveda, I., and Metz, A. J. (2016). Predicting end-of-career transition for baby boomers nearing retirement age. Career Development Quarterly, 64(2), 153-168.
- Carragher, L. and Golding, B. (2015). Older men as learners: Irish men’s sheds as an intervention, Adult Education Quarterly 65 (2), 152-168.
- Courtenay, W. H. (2000). Construction of masculinity and their influence on men’s well-being: a theory of gender and health. Social Science and Medicine, 50, 1385-1401.
- Dettinger, E., and Clarkberg, M. (2002). Informal caregiving and retirement timing among men and women: Gender and caregiving relationships in late midlife. Journal of Family Issues, 23(7), 857-879.
- Eurostat (2017). Adult participation in learning by gender (%), available at: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&lang
- Eurostat (2018). Datas available at: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database
- Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project (2008). Final project report: Executive summary. London. England: Government Office for Science.
- Filipp, S. H., and Olbrich, E. (1986). Human development across the life span: Overview and highlights of the psychological perspective. In A. B. Sorensen, F. E. Weinert, & L. R. Sherrod (Eds.), Human development and the life course: Multi-disciplinary perspective (pp. 343-375). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Eribaum.
- Gregorčič, M., Jelenc Krašovec, S., Radovan, M., and Močilnikar, Š. (2018). Recommendation letters for local community authorities in Slovenia. Available at: http://oldguys.splet.arnes.si/research/recommendation-letters/
- Giles, L. C., Glonek, G. F. V., Luszcz, M. A., and Andrews, G. R. (2005). Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 59(7), 574-579.
- Golden, J., Conroy, R. M., and Lawlor, B. A. (2009). Social support network structure in older people: underlying dimensions and association with psychological and physical health. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 14(3), 280-9.
- Golding, B. (2011a). Older men’s wellbeing through community participation in Australia, International Journal of Men’s Health, 10(1), 26-44.
- Golding, B. (2011b). Taking charge at any age: Learning and wellbeing by older men through community organisations in Australia. Adult Learner 2011: The Irish Journal of Adult and Community Education, 26-40.
- Golding, B., Mark, R., and Foley, A. (2014). Men’s turn to learn? Discussion and conclusion. In Barry Golding, Rob Mark in Annette Foley (Eds.), Men Learning Through Life (pp. 244-259). Leicester: NIACE.
- Golding, B. (ed.) (2015). The men’s shed movement: The company of men. Champaign, Illinois: Common Ground Publishing LLC.
- Goth, U. S., and Småland, E. (2014). The role of civic engagement for men’s health and well being in Norway – A contribute to Public Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11, 6375-6387.
- Gottlieb B. H., and Gillespie A. A. (2008). Volunteerism, health, and civic engagement among older adults. Canadian Journal on Aging, 27(4), 399-406
- Hanlon, N. (2012). Masculinities, care and equality: Identity and nurture in men’s lives. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. and Layton, B. (2010): Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review, PLoS Medicine, 1-20. http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/ journal.pmed.1000316&representation=PDF
- Holwerda T. J., Beekman A. T. F., Deeg D. J. H., Stek M. L., van Tilburg T. G., Visser P. J., Schmand B., Jonker C., and Schoevers R. A. (2012). Increased risk of mortality associated with social isolation in older men: Only when feeling lonely? Results from the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL) Psychol. Med, 42, 843–853.
- Huppatz, K., and Goodwin, S. (2013). Masculinised jobs, feminised jobs and men’s ‘gender capital’ experiences: Understanding occupational segregation in Australia. Journal of Sociology, 49(2/3), 291–308.
- Jelenc Krašovec, S., and Radovan, M. (ur.) (2014). Older men learning in the community: European snapshots. Ljubljana, Slovenija: Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani.
- Krajnc, A. (2016). Starejši se učimo. Izobraževanje starejših v teoriji in praksi. Ljubljana: Slovenska univerza za tretje življenjsko obdobje, združevanje za izobraževanje in družbeno vključenost.
- Lum, T. Y., and Lightfoot, E. (2005). The effects of volunteering of the physical and mental health of older people. Research on Aging, 27(1), 31-55.
- Mark, R., and Golding, B. (2012). Fostering social policies for engagement of older men in learning and improvement of their health and wellbeing. International Journal of Education and Ageing, 2(3), 221-236.
- McGivney, V. (1999). Excluded men: Men who are missing from education and training. Leicester, England: National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.
- McGivney, V. (2004). Men earn, women learn: Bridging the gender divide in education and training. Leicester, England: National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.
- Merriam, S. B., and Kee, Y. (2014). Promoting community wellbeing: The case of lifelong learning for older adults. Adult Education Quarterly, 64(2), 128-144.
- Moen, P., Dempster-McClain, D., Williams, R. (1992). Successful aging: A life-course perspective on women’s multiple roles and health. American Journal of Sociology, 97, 1612-1638.
- Musick, M. A., Herzog, A. R., and House, J. S. (1999). Volunteering and mortality among older adults: Findings from a national sample. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 54B, S173-S180.
- Oliffe J. L., and Han, C. S. E. (2014). Beyond workers’ compensations: Men’s mental health in and out of work. American Journal of Mental Health, 8(1), 45-53.
- Owens, T. (2000). Men on the move: A study of barriers to male participation in education and training initiatives. Dublin, Ireland: AONTAS.
- Paúl, C., and Ribeiro, O. (2009). Predicting loneliness in old people living in the community, Reviews in Clinical Gerontology, 19, 1–8.
- Reynolds, K. A., Mackenzie, C. S., Medved, M., and Roger, K. (2015). The experiences of older male adults throughout their environment in community programme for men. Aging & Society, 35, 531-551.
- Ribeiro, O., Paúl, C., and Nogueira, C. (2007). Real men, real husbands: Caregiving and masculinities in later life, Journal of Aging Studies, 21, 302–313.
- Schmidt-Hertha, B., and Rees, S.-L. (2017). Transition to retirement – Learning to redesign one’s lifestily. Research on Ageing and Social Policy, 5(1), 32-56.
- Schuller, T., and Desjardins, R. (2007). Understanding the social outcomes of learning. Paris, France: OECD.
- Tett, L. and Maclachlan, K. (2007). Adult literacy and numeracy, social capital, learners identities and self-confidence. Studies in the Education of Adults, 39, 173-167.
- Ybarra, O., Burnstein, E., Winkielman, P., Keller, M. C., Manis, M., Chan, E., and Rodriguez, J. (2008). Mental exercising through simple socializing: social interaction promotes general cognitive functioning. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34 (2), 248-259.
- Vandervoort, D. (2012). Social Isolation and Gender, Current psychology, 19(3), 229-236.
- Van Willigen, M. (2000). Differential benefits of volunteering across the life course. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 55B, 308-318.
- Wang, H.-X., Karp, A., Winblad, B., and Fratiglioni, L. (2002). Late-life engagement in social and leisure activities is associated with a decreased risk of dementia: A longitudinal study from the Kungsholmen Project. American Journal of Epidemiology, 155 (12), 1081-1087.
- Wanka, A., Wiesböck, L., Allex, B., Mayrhuber, E., Arnberger, A., Eder, R., Kutalek, R., Wallner, P., Hutter, H.-P., and Kolland, F. (2018). Everyday discrimination in the neighbourhood: What a ‘doing’ perspective on age and ethnicity can offer. Ageing and Society, 1-26.
- Wijngaarden, E. van, Leget, C., and Goossensen, A. (2015). Ready to give up on life: The lived experience of elderly people who feel life is completed and no longer worth living. Social Science & Medicine, 138, 257-264.
- Williamson, T. (2011): Grouchy old men? Promoting older men’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Working with older people, 15, 64-76.
 See Wanka et al. 2018.
 Erasmus+, Strategic Partnership for Adult Education, agreement number: 16-KA204-021604, case number: KA2-AE-9/16 run by the University of Ljubljana and in collaboration with the Slovenian Association of Adult Educators, the University of Algarve (Portugal), the University of Wrocław (Poland), Tallinn University and the Association of Estonian Adult Educators – ANDRAS (Estonia). The project has been coordinated, since September 2016. The aim of the research was to find out how to improve the participation of older men (aged 60 years or more) in the local community and, in particular, how to encourage older men’s socialisation, informal learning and inclusion in the organisations which are not primarily meant for education and learning in the third and fourth life stages.
 According to Huppatz and Goodwin (2013), gender capital may be an extremely useful concept for exploring men’s and women’s movement through occupational social spaces, and thus sheds light on the continuity and reproduction of occupational segregation.