Women’s Survival in Old Age: The Impact of Life Course Experience in the Development of Material and Non-Material Resources for Well-being in Old Age
This thesis is about women’s acquisition and management of material and non-material resources for old age. It provides the historical context for a small group of women aged from seventy-two to ninety-two and examines the ways in which they acquired the resources enabling well-being in old age. The main resources explored are income and assets, housing, health, social connectivity and resilience. The data have been drawn from an oral history project which recorded the life histories of twenty-three community-dwelling New Zealand women of European ethnicity. The interviews were recorded between 2011 and 2013 and are archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington. Oral history provided in-depth interviews that produced rich data for analysis allowing the women’s voices to be heard. A life-course approach highlighted the gender-based cultural expectations and social structures of that informed the women’s life trajectories in a period of rapid social change covering the post-war economic expansion and the resurgence of the women’s movement. The study is interdisciplinary in nature; theories and concepts of ageing, including that of successful ageing, are reviewed from a critical gerontology perspective. It is constructed using a feminist lens and analysed according to grounded theory with flexible coding. The emergent themes relate to the importance of home ownership and the insecurity of renting, the desire to ‘age in place’, the belief in ‘making do’ and the need to have income in addition to New Zealand Superannuation, which covers only the basic needs for old women. The economic effects of divorce or separation which in some cases disadvantage women in old age are reviewed and the long-term values of education in obtaining a good income to facilitate home ownership and financial security. The role of resilience in the face of adversity is shown in the narrators’ ability to employ their agency in the resolution of difficult situations and to initiate and accept social support.