M. J. Van der Meer: Older adults and their sociospatial integration in The Netherlands. Utrecht, Amsterdam 2006 (Geografische Studies 345). 162 S.
Population ageing is one of the most important demographic and social trends in Europe. In 2002-2003 in six European countries an inter-disciplinary research project was carried out under the title 'Ageing Well: A European Study of Adult Well-Being' (ESAW) on the basis of standardized questionnaires. In the Netherlands, nearly 2000 people aged 50 to 89 years living independently were interviewed.
Whereas the general objective was focused on sociocultural factors for the different components of the ageing process, some sociospatial characteristics, from the neighbourhood to the region, could be used in this doctoral dissertation to analyse spatial context effects. Within the ESAW project, social integration was measured by participation in activities (active integration) as well as by embeddedness in social networks (passive integration) and these forms were compared for young olds and old olds. In two chapters the author analyses engagement in productive activities like paid work, voluntary work, or giving support to others and in leisure activities as the most important parts of active integration. Forms of passive integration are dealt with in two chapters on social-support networks and on vulnerability, care, and environmental stress in deprived neighbourhoods. Overall, multivariate models, mostly logistic models, are used to separate effects of general socio-economic factors from sociospatial effects which, in general, help to differentiate social integration of the elderly between spatial contexts. All this is clearly written and presented, and conforms to international standards of 'good practice' in explanatory quantitative research.
Some limitations must be noticed. First, as the author herself stresses in a concluding chapter with discussions of the results, the geographical and spatial content of the interviews is not sufficient for more detailed analyses of activity spaces, time-space constraints or spatial components of social networks. Second, a more thorough theoretical discussion of the meaning of the different spatial contexts which have been used is missing. So the empirical results of leisure activities show some significant differences between the cultural regions of Brabant and Drenthe which seem to be based on mentalities, but such concepts are not discussed. Third, the argumentations are sometimes rather short and not explicit enough. So, on p. 65 two graphical models are compared, a 'contract model' and a 'convergence model', yet the conceptual differences between the models are not very clear and the graphical representation seems to be too simplistic. Because the above-mentioned four chapters with the empirical results have been published independently as articles in journals, there is a problem of incongruity within the text. On the one hand the reader finds some repetitions, on the other hand in some cases more specifications would have been helpful. But overall this is a substantial and most readable study of a topic, which is of growing importance in geography.
Autor: Franz-Josef Kemper