Monash University
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Social networks of older people - civic socialising:a grounded theory of older people’s social interactions in their local neighbourhood shops

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posted on 2017-02-28, 23:29 authored by Stewart, Joan Francis
The research reported in this thesis aimed to develop a better understanding about the nature and purpose of older people’s social interactions in their local neighbourhood shops, and how the interactions may be associated with their well-being. A review of the literature indicated that older people’s interactions in their local neighbourhood shops had not been sufficiently investigated empirically. A subsequent appraisal of journal articles concerned with older people’s social networks indicated that the extant knowledge-base had been informed by approaches that tended to reinforce a notion that older people socialised mainly with family and friends. Such approaches were largely quantitative in nature, and commonly employed closed questions, network mapping, pre-determined typologies, or large non-purpose-collected data bases. My study employed classic grounded theory (Glaser, 1978), an interpretive, exploratory, inductive methodology which involves a rigorous method designed to develop conceptual theory. The theoretical sample comprised 11 people who were 67 years of age or older, and six shopkeepers recruited from a local shopping precinct situated in a middle-class south-eastern suburb of Melbourne, Australia. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews and observations in local shops. Analysis of these data indicated that the older shoppers’ social interactions in and around their local shops enabled them to display their capabilities, reinforce their identities, scrutinise their neighbourhood, exercise choice, and generally be involved in their community. Moreover, the purpose of these interactions was revealed. Conceptualised as Consolidation, it accounted for the participants’ main concerns; strengthening their community standing, and preserving the milieu of their local shops with a view to sustaining their ongoing independence. The succinct theory that conceptualised their approach was coined Civic Socialising. This research has made a considerable contribution to the extant knowledge-base about the social relationships of older people with others who are not family or friends. It has highlighted the proactive nature of such social interactions which can enhance self-esteem and autonomy. This new understanding need be considered in future research that is concerned with the social relationships of older people. The study findings also have significance for policy and social planning that are pertinent to older people, particularly considering an increased focus on them remaining in their communities for as long as possible. We now know how an existing resource, the local neighbourhood shop, can enable older people to remain engaged in community life, and help to look after themselves. Accordingly, at the time of writing this thesis, the findings had been adopted by local government to assist social planning for older people. The new theory can be tested, or may stimulate future enquiry. For example: Does the conceptual theory Civic Socialising involve different nuances in other neighbourhoods? Could a similar beneficial effect be gained where local shops were introduced or reinstated? The study was subject to limitations. Conducting a literature review and tape-recording participants’ interviews are counter to the tenets of classic grounded theory. The use of an explanatory statement may have affected the participants’ behaviour or responses. However, these approaches were in accordance with Monash University’s regulations.


Principal supervisor

Colette Browning

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Department, School or Centre

Primary and Allied Health Care

Additional Institution or Organisation

Primary Health Care

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Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences

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