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Journal ArticleDOI

Active ageing of the active elderly in Serbia - empirical approach

01 Jan 2014-Iss: 148, pp 643-652
TL;DR: A survey based on the questionnaire from Special Eurobarometer Report 378 dealing with issues of active ageing in Europe selected as the target population (already active) participants of the Sixth Olympiad of Sport, Health and Culture for the Third Age held in Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia.
Abstract: One of the most important paradigms that emerged in demographic literature when it comes to mitigation of the population ageing in developed world is the concept of active ageing. At the core of this approach is the idea that elderly population is a very important and resourceful segment of a society because of their large experience in different fields that can contribute to the welfare of all. However, there are still no empirical studies of the population such as pensioners that can contribute the most. Even though elderly pensioners are economically inactive, they have a considerable spare time and non-negligible financial assets. In order to empirically enlighten the practice of active ageing in Serbia, we conducted a survey based on the questionnaire from Special Eurobarometer Report 378 dealing with issues of active ageing in Europe. We chose as the target population (already active) participants of the Sixth Olympiad of Sport, Health and Culture for the Third Age held in Vrnjacka Banja. As a result, we got comprehensive responses to a variety of questions, which could be used as guidelines on how to achieve active aging. Additionally, collected evidences of different attitudes of the active elderly towards family, young generations, work, pension, and the like are elaborated. [Projekat Ministarstva nauke Republike Srbije, br. 47007]

Summary (2 min read)

INTRODUCTION

  • Population ageing has become a core topic of demographic research recently.
  • Global concerns are raised over the anticipated problems that accompany this phenomenon.
  • When comparing to the rest of the world, Serbia (without Kosovo and Metohija due to data unavailability) is among the oldest countries in the world [IASA, 2014].
  • Still, there are certain fundamental differences between some demographically old European countries and Serbia, of which the most important is life expectancy length.
  • This is the reason why the paradigm of active ageing is seen as a possible solution since it gives the framework for activation of older people.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

  • Perception of older people’s role in a society went through various approaches, reflecting different historical contexts older people lived in.
  • To begin with, (socio-psychological) old age was defined as a period of disengagement [Cumming 1960], meaning that older people are slowly reducing their social contacts and narrowing their social networks.
  • It was regarded as beneficial and consensual process on the behalf of individuals and society as well.
  • This theory was largely criticized and followed by other theories that are more in favor of active role of older people, such as activity theory and continuity theory [Havighurst 1961; Atchley 1989].
  • Concept of active ageing [WHO, 2002] as a paradigm that promotes healthy lifestyles, longer activity of the elderly and their full participation in society is giving policy dimension to this issue.

SURVEY CHARACTERISTICS AND RESPONDENTS STRUCTURE

  • This is a pilot survey in their country, based on the questionnaire from Special Eurobarometer Report 378 [2012].
  • The need for such report came from a (mis) perceived threat of population ageing, instead of an achievement.
  • Geographic distribution of respondents was quite scattered and covered most regions of the Republic of Serbia (22 municipalities).
  • Half of female respondents were widows, 29% married, while 14% were never married and the rest was divorced.
  • Age at what the respondents attained pensionable rights varied from 45 years (one respondent on disability pension) to 65 (only two respondents), while the rest were mostly aged between 54 and 60 years.

SETTING OF THE OLYMPIAD

  • In order to investigate attitudes of active older people, survey was conducted during Sixth Olympiad of Sport, Health and Culture for the Third Age.
  • This event was held in Vrnjačka Banja from September 30 to October 4, 2013.
  • Only one of the team members could be younger than 60 years, and gender balance was mandatory (at least one member had to be of opposite sex).
  • Most of the teams represented their municipalities, but there were also representatives of NGOs for example.
  • One of the reasons why the authors chose this form of gathering of older people was because the most of them were physically fit to compete in moderate demanding sport disciplines.

RESULTS

  • The analysеs of answers to various questions the authors asked were grouped according to different research fields.
  • Unfortunately, some of the interviewees (3 of them) did not provide answer since this question was too abstract for them, and others had vague ideas about their perception of old age and gave answers in terms “about x age” or “between x and x+t age”.
  • One quarter answered “very positive”, only 8% said “fairly positive”.
  • The answers from Eurobarometer were quite similar, where only a few percent thought that older people did not contribute, but the rest of the answers were more concentrated in “contribute greatly” than in their research.
  • Even though the authors did not get uniform answers, there were more pensioners who believed that it was more likely that younger workers were more productive than older workers.

CONCLUSION

  • The concept of active ageing is two-dimensional, meaning that it is good for individuals, and consequently for society, to embrace active way of life and use the advantages of active (old) citizens.
  • The authors presented findings from interviews conducted with participants of Sixth Olympiad of Sport, Health and Culture for the Third Age in Serbia, pensioners who can be regarded as “prototype” models for active ageing approach.
  • The authors noticed that their activity and participation in society were important features when combined with social awareness (they were aware that youth unemployment was high and this was reflected in their understanding of retirement issue).

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ACTIVE AGEING OF THE POPULATION
АКТИВНО СТАРЕЊЕ СТАНОВНИШТВА
UDC 364.65-22-053.9(497.11)
UDC 314(497.11)
DOI: 10.2298/ZMSDN1448643S
ORIGINAL SCIENTIFIC PAPER
ACTIVE AGEING OF THE ACTIVE ELDERLY
IN SERBIA – EMPIRICAL APPROACH
JELENA STOJILKOVIĆ-GNJATOV
Geographical institute “Jovan Cvijić” SASA
Đure Jakšića 9, 11000 Belgrade, Republic of Serbia
E-mail: ј.stojilkovic@gi.sanu.ac.rs
MARIJA BELIJ
University of Belgrade, Faculty of Geography
Studentski trg 16, 11000 Belgrade Republic of Serbia
E-mail: marija.belij@gmail.com
ABSTRACT: One of the most important paradigms that emerged in de-
mographic literature when it comes to mitigation of the population ageing in
developed world is the concept of active ageing. At the core of this approach is
the idea that elderly population is a very important and resourceful segment of
a society because of their large experience in different fields that can contribute
to the welfare of all. However, there are still no empirical studies of the popula-
tion such as pensioners that can contribute the most. Even though elderly pen-
sioners are economically inactive, they have a considerable spare time and non-
negligible financial assets. In order to empirically enlighten the practice of active
ageing in Serbia, we conducted a survey based on the questionnaire from Special
Eurobarometer Report 378 dealing with issues of active ageing in Europe. We
chose as the target population (already active) participants of the Sixth Olym-
piad of Sport, Health and Culture for the Third Age held in Vrnjačka Banja. As
a result, we got comprehensive responses to a variety of questions, which could
be used as guidelines on how to achieve active aging. Additionally, collected
evidences of different attitudes of the active elderly towards family, young gen-
erations, work, pension, and the like are elaborated.
KEYWORDS: active ageing, pensioners, Serbia, interview, population policy
INTRODUCTION
Population ageing has become a core topic of demographic research recently.
Global concerns are raised over the anticipated problems that accompany this

644
phenomenon. This process is also regarded as a danger to economy. One of the
main driving forces of demographic development is a fertility rate, which have
stabilized at a quite low level in Serbia. As one of the consequences of the
decreasing number of births, the percentage of older population is increasing.
When comparing to the rest of the world, Serbia (without Kosovo and Meto-
hija due to data unavailability) is among the oldest countries in the world
[IASA, 2014]. Still, there are certain fundamental differences between some
demographically old (western) European countries and Serbia, of which the
most important is life expectancy length. In Serbia, life expectancy at birth
and at 65 is less than in the majority of developed courtiers [Devedžić and
Stojilković 2012]. While other European countries facing with the population
ageing are in more favorable position when it comes to solving this puzzle of
ageing and prosperity, Serbia does not have the same resources, preconditions
and highly educated migrants as it is the case in richer countries. This is the
reason why the paradigm of active ageing is seen as a possible solution since
it gives the framework for activation of older people.
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
Perception of older peoples role in a society went through various ap-
proaches, reflecting different historical contexts older people lived in. To begin
with, (socio-psychological) old age was defined as a period of disengagement
[Cumming 1960], meaning that older people are slowly reducing their social
contacts and narrowing their social networks. It was regarded as beneficial and
consensual process on the behalf of individuals and society as well. This the-
ory was largely criticized and followed by other theories that are more in favor
of active role of older people, such as activity theory and continuity theory
[Havighurst 1961; Atchley 1989]. Concept of active ageing [WHO, 2002] as a
paradigm that promotes healthy lifestyles, longer activity of the elderly and
their full participation in society is giving policy dimension to this issue. So-
cietys ability to use the potentials of older people could be one thing that makes
great difference in outcomes of population policy. As one of the results of
Madrid International Plan of Actions on Ageing [2002], this concept will gain
wider audience in the following years. Investigating attitudes of already active
older people is important since they can be used as guidelines for future rec-
ommendations and directions for mitigation of this process.
SURVEY CHARACTERISTICS AND RESPONDENTS
STRUCTURE
This is a pilot survey in our country, based on the questionnaire from
Special Eurobarometer Report 378 [2012]. Active ageing is a separate topic in
this report because 2012 was declared “European Year for Active Ageing and
Solidarity between Generations”. The need for such report came from a (mis)
perceived threat of population ageing, instead of an achievement. Unfortu-
nately, Serbia was not one of the countries where this research was conducted,
since this report covered EU Member States and five non-EU countries (Cro-

645
atia − not part of EU in time of research, Iceland, FYROM, Norway and Tur-
key). The main themes of this report were concerned with overall perceptions
of age and older people, older people in the workplace, retirement and pensions,
voluntary work and support for older people and age friendly environment.
The main difference between this report and our research is the scope of in-
terviewees, since we included only pensioners while original report encom-
passed respondents aged 15 and above. Some of the questions were adapted
and some, considered not necessary for this research, were omitted. All re-
spondents were very cooperative, giving us the opportunity to conduct in-depth
interviews as our main goal, which enriched our findings.
Demographic characteristics of respondents show that 58% were male.
Average age of respondents was 66.6 years (ranging from 56 to 80). Geo-
graphic distribution of respondents was quite scattered and covered most re-
gions of the Republic of Serbia (22 municipalities). Half of female respondents
were widows, 29% married, while 14% were never married and the rest was
divorced. Marital structure of male respondents was different, since 70% were
married, 20% widowers and the rest equally distributed among the divorced
and never married. Educational attainment of respondents also varied, 5%
finished only elementary school, half of respondents have a secondary school
degree, 30% high school and 8% hold a university degree (2 respondents fin-
ished postgraduate studies). The majority of respondents had children and
grandchildren (one of them even had a great-grandchild), 15% had no grand-
children yet, and 70% had at least one grandchild. Interviewees without chil-
dren were never married or were divorced. Age at what the respondents attained
pensionable rights varied from 45 years (one respondent on disability pension)
to 65 (only two respondents), while the rest were mostly aged between 54 and
60 years. There was a noticeable difference between male and female age of
retirement, as supposed, due to legislative framework of pension law.
SETTING OF THE OLYMPIAD
In order to investigate attitudes of active older people, survey was con-
ducted during Sixth Olympiad of Sport, Health and Culture for the Third Age.
This event was held in Vrnjačka Banja from September 30 to October 4, 2013. In
order to participate in the Olympiad, one had to be a pensioner belonging to a
5-member team competing in different sport sections. Only one of the team
members could be younger than 60 years, and gender balance was mandatory (at
least one member had to be of opposite sex). Most of the teams represented their
municipalities, but there were also representatives of NGOs for example. Com-
petition categories were relay, chess, archery, darts and penalty shootout (there
was also fishing, but being an individual sport it was not part of the overall com-
petition score). One of the reasons why we chose this form of gathering of older
people was because the most of them were physically fit to compete in moderate
demanding sport disciplines. This proved that their health and condition were
good enough, so they could be regarded as active and healthy older persons and
as ordinary models for active ageing. There were roughly 700 participants in this
event, and 5% of them were interviewed for the purpose of this research.

646
RESULTS
The analysеs of answers to various questions we asked were grouped ac-
cording to different research fields. The first block of questions dealt with
self-perceived health, living conditions, life in general, personal relations and
independency. Also, there were questions about the perception of age, like
“When someone becomes old/young” and personal feelings about ones life
stage. The next block of questions inquired about the attitudes of people aged
55 and above about their role in different spheres of society (in politics and in
family) and what they personally thought whether their role in these fields
should be greater or not. The questions that followed were about the contribu-
tion to different fields, so respondents were asked to what extent people over
55 financially supported their families and cared for their grandchildren. The
following block was concerned with individual knowledge about the share of
people over age 65 and about life expectancy in Serbia. The next set of ques-
tions dealt with retirement and personally perceived ability to continue with
work before retirement. The last set of questions dealt with intergenerational
perspective in the workplace from the point of view of our interviewees.
Answers to the question about self-perceived health showed that most of
the respondents were satisfied with their physical condition (average grade 2.5
out of 3) and this should be highlighted because 20% of interviewed pensioners
were in disability pension. Still, the older the respondent, the worst self-perceived
health was, with only a few younger participants who said that they had health
issues. The worst average grade we got for the question about life in general, and
in in-depth interview most of respondents revealed that financial constrains were
the reasons for this dissatisfaction. Still, average grade for living conditions was
quite high, which mostly reflected the fact that the majority of respondents had
their own housing. The greatest satisfaction was noted in answers about per-
sonal relationships and ability to perform day to day activities, where almost all
of the respondents, regardless of age, were very satisfied with family and neigh-
borhood relations and could live on their own without the help of others.
Table 1. Average score for answers on the question
about the satisfaction with various spheres of life
How satisfied are you with: Average
Life in general 2.44
Health 2.50
Living conditions 2.74
Personal relationships 2.88
Ability to perform day to day activities 2.91
In order to establish overall perception of old age, all respondents were
asked the following question: “In your opinion, thinking about the age when

647
one starts to be regarded as old, at what age would you say that happens?”.
Unfortunately, some of the interviewees (3 of them) did not provide answer
since this question was too abstract for them, and others had vague ideas about
their perception of old age and gave answers in terms “about x age” or “between
x and x+t age”. Nevertheless, the main finding was not blurred by these limi-
tations, since the rest of respondents answered uniformly in one very important
aspect – they determined old age as the age above their own.
The following question dealt with the age when someone was not regarded
as “young” anymore. Similar like delimitation of “old”, some respondents did
not answer, since they could not decide the exact age when someone was not
young anymore. The responses of those who answered ranged from 20 years
to 80, but with greatest distribution of answers between 40 and 60 years.
We believe that next question was very important, since it highlighted
individual perception of respondents about their own stage in life cycle: young,
middle-aged or old. Most of people in this interview were over 60 (65) years
old, the age used in demography for classification of old age (only two were
younger than 60). Although we expected that, on average, our responders would
define their life moment as old age, even 80% of them described themselves
as middle-aged. This characteristic of active old people should be underscored,
since the self-perception of individual age can play an important role in peoples
life. As a result of in-depth interview with one female respondent, we are cit-
ing her own words when asked if she felt old: “I do not feel my calendar age,
I feel much younger, the number in my ID card does not mean much.
For the next question we asked whether perception of people aged 55 and
over was positive or negative in our society. One quarter answered very posi-
tive, only 8% said fairly positive”. On the negative side was one third of
respondents with answer “fairly negative”, and 17% who said “very negative”.
The rest were undecided. The results from Eurobarometer showed that Euro-
peans had somewhat different idea about this perception, since their answers
were concentrated in “positive” segment.
When asked what the role of older people was in Serbian political life in
terms of participating and voting, the majority thought that elderly play major
role. Some of them said that this role was minor, and only few answered that
people over 55 did not have any role in political life in our country. This is
quite in accordance with the fact that there is a political party of united pen-
sioners and that older people are very active when it comes to voting. The
assessment of our respondents was very similar to the results of European
Survey, since most of the Europeans also believed that older people have ma-
jor role in this field. Also, most of our interviewees believed that older people
should have more influence in society, one third would not mind if this role
remained the same, and only 9% said that this role should be smaller.
In order to place the role of older people in family context, as another aspect
of everyday life, we asked our interviewees how they saw the importance of
older people in families in general. Almost all respondents answered that older
people played major role in their families, a few said that this role was minor, and
only negligible number said that the elderly did not have any role in the family.

References
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TL;DR: The authors of as discussed by the authors stated that much of the decline associated with old age has more to do with lifestyle than aging, and that social interaction is a powerful safeguard of emotional well-being.
Abstract: Much of the decline associated with old age has more to do with lifestyle than aging. The old adage that says "you lose it if you don't use it" is true. In order to maintain and promote cognitive wellness, Carol Miller, a gerontologist, in her book "Wellness In Older Adults" states that engaging in new learning experiences, participating in challenging leisure activities, and preserving and continuing social relationships with friends and family members is imperative to total wellness. Dr. Andrew Weil in his book "Spontaneous Healing" states, "We humans are social animals. Reach out to others. Make social interaction a priority. It is a powerful safeguard of emotional well-being."

4,531 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Continuity Theory holds that, in making adaptive choices, middle-aged and older adults attempt to preserve and maintain existing internal and external structures by using strategies tied to their past experiences of themselves and their social world.
Abstract: Continuity Theory holds that, in making adaptive choices, middle-aged and older adults attempt to preserve and maintain existing internal and external structures; and they prefer to accomplish this objective by using strategies tied to their past experiences of themselves and their social world. Change is linked to the person's perceived past, producing continuity in inner psychological characteristics as well as in social behavior and in social circumstances. Continuity is thus a grand adaptive strategy that is promoted by both individual preference and social approval.

1,523 citations


"Active ageing of the active elderly..." refers background or methods in this paper

  • ...Atchley R. C. (1989). A continuity theory of normal aging. The Gerontologist 29 (2): 183–190. Cumming, E. et al. (1960). Disengagement-A Tentative Theory of Aging....

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  • ...Atchley R. C. (1989). A continuity theory of normal aging. The Gerontologist 29 (2): 183–190. Cumming, E. et al. (1960). Disengagement-A Tentative Theory of Aging. Sociometry, 23: 23–35. Devedžić, M. i J. Stojilković (2012). Novo poimanje starosti – prospektivna starost. Stanov ni štvo, 50 (1): 45–68. Havighurst, R. (1961). Successful aging. The Gerontologist, 1: 8–13. IIASA (2014). European Demographic Datasheet 2014....

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  • ...Special Eurobarometer 378: Active Ageing...

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Journal ArticleDOI
01 Mar 1960

191 citations


"Active ageing of the active elderly..." refers background in this paper

  • ...To begin with, (socio-psychological) old age was defined as a period of disengagement [Cumming 1960], meaning that older people are slowly reducing their social contacts and narrowing their social networks....

    [...]

Frequently Asked Questions (2)
Q1. What are the contributions mentioned in the paper "Active ageing of the population активно старење становништва" ?

In order to empirically enlighten the practice of active ageing in Serbia, the authors conducted a survey based on the questionnaire from Special Eurobarometer Report 378 dealing with issues of active ageing in Europe. 

Future research of this topic is welcome and planned, since participants in these interviews stated that they felt the older people were rarely asked any questions, and it seemed they had a lot of useful and practical answers.