Rethinking Retirement ESRC Seminar Series Home Seminars & Contact

Activity, Unpaid Work and Active Ageing

The event opened with Marian Barnes and Lizzie Ward, who presented research on well-being conducted with a research team of older people in Brighton. The qualitative research challenged the notion that well-being can be reduced to activity, and argued that old age requires a form of work to be well enough. Discussant for this paper, Kat Riach, then considered the social and relational dimensions of well-being identified by the paper.

Anne McMunn's paper explored well-being in relation to different 'socially productive activities'. Using the CASP 19 measure of psychological well-being from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, the research identified differences in well-being between people doing paid work, volunteering and caring. Furthermore, as the discussant Philipp Hessel emphasised, the research suggests that well-being levels depended upon how much people feel rewarded for their activities.

Stephen McNair's paper explored the impact of training on employment in later life. Overall, training levels were lower amongst older people, but there were important differences in this regard between sectors and occupations; those most in need of training - the low skilled - were least likely to receive it. Discussant Anita Pickerden then considered the consequences of under-training older workers.

Finally, Paul Stenner presented research that unpacked how older people understand the notion of active ageing. Older interviewees emphasised the centrality of agency and control over their activities; this was contrasted with an active ageing policy approach that emphasised individual responsibility for activity and well-being. Chris Phillipson then discussed the paper in the broader context of changes to retirement.

We had approximately 80 participants. This included older people themselves, public policy officials (from the Department for Work and Pensions, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions and the Equality and Human Rights Commission); service providers (Rother District Council and the London Borough of Lewisham); NGOs and representative bodies (Age Concern and the Older Peoples' Council); institutes concerned with retirement issues (the Life Academy and the Pensions Policy Institute); the press (The Argus); a 'think tank' (The Resolution Foundation); and early career and established researchers.

Sallis Benney Theatre, 58-67 Grand Parade, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 0J
University of Brighton

24th February 2012

The seminar brought together academics, practitioners and policy makers to explore:

  • The relationship between activity and well-being in older age
  • The consequences of different paid/unpaid and economic/non-economic activities for older people
  • The concept of 'Active Ageing', and how this is understood and used



Marian Barnes and Lizzie Ward
University of Brighton
Identity, well-being into and beyond retirement
Download slides (PDF format)

Anne McMunn
University College London
Wellbeing and participation in socially productive activities in older age
Download slides (PDF format)

Stephen McNair
Centre for Research on the Older Workforce, NIACE
Does learning help: learning for work and life after 50
Download slides (PDF format)

Paul Stenner
Open University
Active ageing from the perspective of a sample of older people
Download slides (PDF format)

Kat Riach
University of Essex
Response to Marian Barnes and Lizzie Ward
Download slides (PDF format)


Copyright University of Brighton 2011 | Design by Francis Greenaway