Senior citizens? : old age and citizenship in provincial New Zealand communities : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Massey University
This research considers the extent and quality of the citizenship of older New Zealanders in the "Third Age", a stage in the adult life cycle between the second age of careers, partnership and parenting and the fourth and final phase of (usually) increasing dependency. The study questions: whether 'senior citizens' have access to the material and cultural resources to enable them to choose between different courses of action in their daily lives; whether existing intergenerational relations enable them to appropriate substantive rights and responsibilities; and what are the relational practices and processes, the networks and affiliations, through which citizenship may be 'performed' by older people? This research was carried out with six groups of elderly people in a range of communities in the province of Hawke's Bay on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The purpose of running six different focus groups, each over a six week period, was to generate discussion of the issues for older people as well as individual stories about the lives of elderly people in particular local communities. The aim was to investigate the meaning of old age for elderly New Zealanders by critically analysing the term 'senior citizen'. The study built on contemporary theories of ageing and citizenship, using a narrative collective life history approach in order to focus on older people's personal experience of policy, and the capacity for citizenship that they bring with them into old age. The study also identifies national and local government policies, national and local organisations, media representations of old age, local communities, families and the attitudes of elderly people themselves as important influences on the extent to which they are able to exercise and enjoy their rights and responsibilities as senior citizens. My central thesis is that senior citizenship depends on a civil society which supports autonomy and connectedness for all its citizens. The balance between these two aspects of citizenship is culturally determined and sensitive to outcomes in a range of social domains over the life span. Recommendations focus on self-determination and social inclusion for older people through anti-ageist policies and practices at the national and the local level, and further research into the plans and aspirations of senior citizens.