This article presents an overview of the design and results of the NESTOR survey 'Living Arrangements and Social Networks of Older Adults', an empirical study, started in 1992, among a representative sample of 4495 people, aged 55-89, selected from the population registers of 11 municipalities in the Netherlands. Questions were asked about living arrangements, the composition and functions of social networks, and important transitions in the marital, parental and occupational careers. The results indicated a wide diversity in living arrangements and social networks, a diversity which is particularly visible among: the young old. They not only have larger networks, but are also more likely to live alone, to be divorced and to participate in shared housing arrangements. The networks vary considerably in size, from 0 to more than 40 important relationships. The decrease in network size with age appears to be directly related to specific life events such as widowhood, physical handicaps, residential moves etc. About 2/3 of the relationships are family relationships: parents, children (in law), grandchildren (in law), brothers and sisters (in law), uncles and aunts. Older people tend to be in touch at least once a month with the majority of close family members. The intensity of supportive exchanges (giving and receiving instrumental and emotional support in the twelve relationships with the highest levels of contact) is moderate, however mostly in balance. Only the very old receive somewhat more instrumental support and give considerably less than the 'young-old'. We studied the shift in balance between giving and receiving over a period of 12 months among a small proportion of the sample, checking a central hypothesis of exchange theory. In some cases a new balance evolves. In others the relationship continues to exist for a number of reasons, despite the imbalance. Early life experiences appear to be important for later life outcomes. Those who experienced the divorce of their parents before the age of 15 or those whose parents lived apart permanently (e.g. unmarried mothers) have a smaller Social network and feel more lonely. Marital history has an impact on patterns of informal and formal care. E.g., those respondents without a partner who have children are less likely to use formal care than these who are childless. Among divorced elderly the use of formal care not only varies between men and women but also differs according to the marriage in which the children are born, first or second marriage. Occupational history is strongly related to the income level of elder women living alone.
|Translated title of the contribution
|Living arrangements and social networks of older adults; a selection of findings from a NESTOR-study
|Number of pages
|Tijdschrift voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie
|Published - 1998