Brock University

Aging and Inequality I

Canadian seniors do not experience economic inequality equally. Rather, race and ethnicity, immigrant status and time of arrival, paid and unpaid work, gender, class and access to retirement income are some of the key factors that shape the degree to which seniors experience economic vulnerability in retirement. In this session, we encourage papers that explore the factors that precipitate economic inequality for seniors. We also seek to understand the consequences for seniors and 'near seniors' of the effects of inequality on their family lives, paid employment, community involvement, emotional well-being and social integration.

Session Organizer: Nancy Mandell, York University, ; Nikolina Postic, York University,


Trajectories towards inequalities in old age: Examining the life course of injured workers

Becky Casey, McMaster University, , Peri Ballantyne, Trent University and The Institute for Work and Health ,

An area of study that has not received much research attention is the aging experiences of people with permanent impairments resulting from workplace injuries. Due to escalating negative financial, health, and social outcomes, many people who are aging with workplace injuries face a very vulnerable future. Dreams of a financially secure and stable retirement are often shattered after a workplace injury. Data for this presentation come from three research projects: two qualitative projects based on single-time, in-depth interviews: N=40 aged 35-74, x̅ 17 years since injury; N=11 aged 41-61, x̅ 9 years since injury; and a detailed quantitative survey focusing on pre and post injury work, health, and income outcomes: N=494 aged 26-58, x̅=4.5 years. Our results suggest that aging with permanent impairments resulting from a workplace injury can have long-term negative implications on financial, health, and social connections. Therefore, the long-term outcomes of work injuries and how they will ultimately affect people throughout the life course and into old age needs to be recognized by Workers’ Compensation Boards to ensure a more positive future for injured workers.


Exploring Intersections of Health Inequality in Later Life: A Scoping Review of the Literature on the Health and Health Care of Ethno-cultural Minority Older Adults

Karen Kobayashi, Department of Sociology and Centre on Aging University of Victoria , , Sharon Koehn, Department of Gerontology Simon Fraser University , , Mushira Khan, Department of Sociology University of Victoria ,

This paper uses an intersectionality perspective to interrogate selected findings of a scoping review of published and grey literature on the health and health-care access of ethnocultural minority older adults. Our focus is on Canada and countries with similar immigrant populations and health-care systems. Approximately 3,300 source documents were reviewed covering the period 1980–2012: 830 met the eligibility criteria; 185 were Canadian. Summarised findings were presented to groups of older adults and care providers for critical review and discussion. Here we discuss the extent to which the literature accounts for the complexity of categories such as culture and ethnicity, recognises the compounding effects of multiple intersections of inequity that include social determinants of health as well as the specificities of immigration, and places the experience of those inequities within the context of systemic oppression. We found that Canada's two largest immigrant groups – Chinese and South Asians – had the highest representation in Canadian literature but, even for these groups, many topics remain unexplored and the heterogeneity within them is inadequately captured. Some qualitative literature, particularly in the health promotion and cultural competency domains, essentialises culture at the expense of other determinants and barriers, whereas the quantitative literature suffers from oversimplification of variables and their effects often due to the absence of proportionally representative data that captures the complexity of experience in ethno-cultural minority groups.


Retirees’ Participation in Bridge Employment and Psychological Distress: The Mediating and Moderating Effects of Social Support

Xiaoyu Annie Gong, University of Western Ontario,

Many people who retire from long-term career jobs now seek bridge employment before completely exiting the labor force. However, little attempt has been made to understand whether participation in post-retirement employment is associated with better psychological well-being and what motivates retirees to participate in post-retirement employment. The purpose of this study is threefold: 1) to examine whether retirees’ participation in bridge employment status is associated with psychological distress; 2) to determine whether social support from friends mediates the relationship between retirees’ employment status and their psychological distress; and 3) to determine whether social support from spouse, family or friends moderates the relationship between retirees’ employment status and their psychological distress. Data from the 2004 National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) was used for analysis. Results indicate that retirees engaged in paid work have lower psychological distress than those not working. However, the difference in psychological distress is largely a function of differences in educational achievement, wealth, and disability. Perceived support from friends is both a mediator and moderator of the relationship between retirees’ employment status and their psychological distress.


Neighbourhood-based lifelong learning and healthy aging: Analyzing its relationship to well-being, vulnerability, and perceived health in later life

Miya Narushima, Department of Health Sciences, Brock University, , Jian Liu, Department of Health Sciences, Brock University, , Naomi Diestelkamp, Niagara College,

This study investigates whether continuous participation in lifelong learning in local communities can potentially play a role in older adults’ psychological well-being. Using a cross-sectional survey with 699 older learners enrolled in a local public continuing education program, we analyzed the association between their duration of learning and their level of well-being, taking gender, vulnerability levels and self-rated health into considerations. The results suggest that old adults’ continuous participation is independently and positively associated with their well-being, even among the most vulnerable group—i.e. those who have multiple risk conditions including low income, poor social support, and chronic health problems. The results are discussed with reference to the literature of old age vulnerabilities framework which underlines the important role of supportive activities and environment in developing older adults’ reserve capacity. Although well-being in later life is largely determined by life course tied to socioeconomic status, this study also suggests there are compensatory effects brought about by the local educational program. Given the trend toward inequality in third age learning, our study draws attention to the potential roles of affordable and accessible community activities for healthy aging, and calls for further studies of its impact and their inclusion in ageing policies.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie