Issue 52

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Family Matters No. 52, 1999

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Ageing and families - the International Year of Older Persons

In this issue of Family Matters, Australian Institute of Family Studies researchers and experts in the area of ageing have contributed articles from their differing perspectives on ageing and the role of families and government. An overview of the articles is provided by Ilene Wolcott on page three of this issue.

Articles in this issue of Family Matters are only available as PDF documents and do not meet the latest web accessibility standards. If you are unable to access any of the articles in this issue of Family Matters please contact us and we will endeavour to provide the article/s you need in a format that you can use.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 52
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, March 1999,
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Home ownership and social policy in an ageing society

Ian Winter

Recognition of the multiple advantages of home ownership to families, governments and society at large has in effect constructed a social contract with individual savings for home ownership being rewarded by favourable tax and pension treatments. In the context of the International Year of Older Persons, this article discusses the importance of home ownership to older Australians and, in the light of the prevailing fall in home ownership rates and an end to explicit policy support for home ownership, it examines some of the implications for the future.

Families and ageing in the 21st century

Andrew Tongue and Nicola Ballenden

Population ageing is frequently regarded in the media and elsewhere as a financial and social crisis as increasing numbers of frail aged people place greater and greater burdens on an already strained system of health, aged care and social security. In this article, the authors examine some of the myths and realities for current and future generations of older people, and argue that the ageing phenomenon is not necessarily the crisis often portrayed in the media. The International Year of Older Persons provides an opportunity to overcome the negative stereotyping of ageing, and to recognise the positive contribution older people make to their families and the community.

How history is failing our families

David Thomson

Public policy from the 1930s to the 1960s was dominated by the interests of young adults and families. From the 1970s, it has increasingly favoured the interests of the middle aged and the elderly population. In this article, the author examines how the restructured economies of the past 25 years are shaping the environments of the young. He focuses on that portion of life when young adults are forming or not forming families, and are choosing or not choosing to raise children, and so by these decisions, are shaping future societies. He focuses on the economics, or the changing material fortunes of young adults and families and on public policy or the actions of government which shape the environments of the young.

Independence and low-income older persons: When policy meets practice

Mandy Leveratt

The aim of this article is to explore recent policy debates connected with older people specifically, and health and community services more generally. The article first identifies and analyses two dominant discourses of ageing that are current in policy debates, healthy ageing and the burden of ageing, and then seeks to examine how these discourses enter the lives of low income older persons and influence their use of health and community services. The article draws on two recent qualitative research projects undertaken by the Brotherhood of St Laurence during the past two years. These studies focused on those who were the most disadvantaged and who were reliant on the pension and having to pay rent.



Admission to residential aged care facilities: Do families matter?

Diane Gibson and Zhibin Liu

The central role played by carers in maintaining people at home has been so well documented, that it has been assumed that those admitted to nursing homes or hostels are less likely than others to have informal carers. Policy analysts, however, only occasionally turn their attention to the mainstay of aged care in Australia, that system of informal care provided by family and friends, which looks after the majority of frail and disabled older people. This article questions the somewhat taken - for - granted relationship between the availability of informal care and admission to residential care. The intent is not to disprove the existence of such a relationship, but rather to provide a quantitative account of that relationship. The author takes into account the current policy context wherein access to residential care has been progressively decreased in favour of an expanded access to home based care.



Caring for elderly parents

Christine Millward

What are the benefits and drawbacks of middle aged people taking responsibility for the welfare of their elderly parents? In this article, the author draws on Australian Institute of Family Studies survey data and case studies to explore the experiences of 50-70 year older elder carers. This article has three main aims: to discuss the general profile of people caring for elderly parents and care recipients; to present some real life caring situations illustrating the complexities of care arrangements; and to draw some conclusions about the consequences of these complexities for middle aged carers and for the provision of support services for the aged.



Valuing older Australians

Denys Correll

This article presents the author's views on how the images and interests of older people influence public policy. While the subject matter in the aged policy debate has not changed greatly from ten years ago, the intensity has. The author focuses on the influence of older people and issues such as employment, politics, safety, health, financial security, the media, and positive ageing.

Family support and community in an ageing society

Victor Minichiello and Irene Coulson

Given the changes in the population structure, the need to reexamine social and political thought on the issue of caring for older people in the community is becoming increasingly urgent. The evidence suggests that caregivers will face complex challenges in the years to come and that current policies do not go far enough in supporting older people and their families. This paper firstly reviews some of the political context surrounding community care and highlights several issues arising from the tightening and streamlining of residential care on providing care in the community, and secondly raises awareness on providing care to relatives and friends who have dementia.

Social capital and social policy conference

Peter Saunders and Ian Winter

There has been a great deal of interest recently in the concept of social capital. Academics have been writing about its significance, governments have been concerned about its erosion, and voluntary organisations claim to have been contributing to its strength. The topics of social capital and social policy were addressed in a one day conference hosted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies in February 1999. The conference questioned what exactly is social capital, how can it be measured, and why is it so important. In this report of the conference, the authors reflect on some of the key aspects of the day's discussions.

Family research - the next three years

Peter Saunders

The Australian Institute of Family Studies recently issued a briefing paper, setting out some ideas for future research directions and inviting people to comment. The briefing paper examined three core areas: the micro level which aims to produce stable personalities and which addresses the question of what family arrangements or other child care arrangements, best produce well adjusted and happy children who can fulfil their potential and grow into responsible and well adjusted adults; the meso level which aims to maintain stable family units and which asks how do stable families come to be formed, how do they manage problems, adapt to change and what are the best arrangements for managing the break up of families when they can no longer function successfully; and the macro level which aims to contribute to social stability and which questions how do contemporary changes in the economy, the organisation of government services and local community life impact on the stability of families, and how is family change affecting functioning of the economy, demands on government, and the overall cohesion of Australian society. As well as outlining the basic contours of the new research plan, the author discusses some of the new project ideas which are now under consideration.

Workshop on quality of life research

Ruth Weston

Of paramount importance to any nation is the quality of life of its citizens. Quality of life has been defined in a multitude of ways, with little agreement on elements that should be measured. Key domains such as health, education and income support, are argued by some researchers as only base planks, with other domains such as social capital, environmental sustainability, and family functioning, as well as subjective measures of general happiness, satisfaction with spheres of life and personal evaluations of society, as additional areas which should be included and measured. This article reports on a two day workshop, organised by Richard Eckersley, Visiting Fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, and hosted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies in which the work of key researchers working in the field was presented and contradictions in quality of life research were explored.

Finding happiness: Factors contributing to wellbeing

Ruth Weston

Although there are a myriad of factors which contribute to judgements surrounding the quality of life, the achievement of a sense of well being, or happiness, or life satisfaction, is a central component. While wealth can buy many things to enhance the quality of life, research suggests that there is no strong direct link between money and personal happiness. This article questions what makes people happy. Drawing on data from the Institute's Australian Living Standards Study, it examines how income and other factors, including family life and occupational status, combine to influence parents' satisfaction with their lives.

Learning parenting: Intergenerational influences

Violet Kolar

In this article the author looks at the issue of learning to parent, focusing specifically on family of origin as a source of influence in the development of parenting. The paper is based on data from the Institute's Parenting-21 study, and concentrates on intergenerational influences on parenting by exploring parents' responses to two questions: what sorts of things did they do that were similar to their own parents' style of raising children; and what sorts of things did they do that were different from what their own parents did. What it means to be a parent, the nature of childhood experiences and the quality of intergenerational relationships are important contextual details for understanding parents' responses which are also discussed.

Work and family life: Reciprocal effects

Helen Glezer and Ilene Wolcott

Central to the debate surrounding work and family life is a paradox, namely the essential competition between the demands of business to be productive and efficient in the market place, and the need for workers to enjoy satisfying family and personal lives. This article draws on data from the Institute's Australian Family Life Course Study to examine the extent to which work and home life impinge on one another. The authors discuss how factors related to the working environment, family circumstances and time pressures influence these reciprocal effects, and identify the main predictors of work impinging on home life.



Opinion: In defence of progress: A response to Richard Eckersley

Peter Saunders

In the previous issue of Family Matters (no.51), an article by Richard Eckersley, 'Redefining progress: shaping the future to human needs' was published in which he argued that economic growth was no longer contributing to an improved quality of life. He argued that modern society is becoming 'increasingly hostile to our wellbeing' and he suggested the need for a fundamental change in the way people think about progress. This article represents a critique of that paper in which the author is skeptical about some of the research findings reported in Eckersley's paper. The author states that if studies 'find that one third of young people are psychologically distressed or disturbed, or that two thirds of students each year seriously think about killing themselves, then perhaps we should start asking questions about the design of the studies and the measurement of their indicators before we start criticising the society which is said to be generating these astonishing levels of despair.' He criticises Eckersley for locating the blame for current difficulties in 'society's failure to provide an adequate cultural framework'. He believes that individuals might have something to answer for, and that solutions might lie in demanding higher individual standards than in making demands on society.

Family law: Recent issues and initiatives

Margaret Harrison

This article examines recent issues and initiatives pertaining to family law. The Family Court and the Family Law Act are frequently accused, most commonly by fathers, of gender bias, particularly in relation to the determination of children's matters. The fathers' rights movement has gained increasing credibility and support, and has raised concerns, along with other groups, concerning child custody, access enforcement, child support, 'false' allegations of family violence, matrimonial property division, and the need to reintroduce fault into divorce proceedings. In this article, the author discusses the issues of child support, child contact, outcome of contested children's matters, property and financial matters, and federal magistracy.