Gražina Rapolienė is research fellow in two projects carried out in Lithuanian Social Research Centre financed by Research Council of Lithuania:
- „Older people living alone: trends, profiles and challenges to intergenerational integration“ (03/2017 – 12/2018) and
- „Childlessness in Lithuania: socio‐cultural changes and individual experiences in modern society“ (03/2017 – 12/2019).
She is also senior specialist at the Office of Strategic planning at Vilnius University (06/2016 – 01/2018 she was leading the office).
Her doctoral dissertation “Is Old Age Stigma? Ageing Identity in Lithuania” was awarded as the best dissertation in social sciences and humanities in Lithuania in 2012.
Gražina is a national representative in the COST IS1402 activity „Ageism – a multi-national, interdisciplinary perspective“ Management Committee, EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020 (2014-2018). 09/2007 – 02/2017 she was teaching several subjects in sociology: Sociology (in Lithuanian and English), Social theory, Classical sociological theories, Sociology of health and illness, Sociology of ageing.
Her research interests are ageing identity, ageism, representations in media, social exclusion, consumption, and childlessness.
Drop-out in Later Life: The Perceptions of Older People Living Alone in Lithuania
Background. While there is a tendency to study regularities in social exclusion of older people (60+), the aim of this paper is to disclose subjective perceptions of social participation of elderly people living alone. The theoretical model of social exclusion / inclusion as a multiple concept describing the (un)just social relationships is applied. Methods. The analysis of the data from the original qualitative research (semi-structured interviews (n=27) collected in Lithuania in 2017, project No.GER-001/2017) revealed a wide range of social exclusion experienced at various levels. Results. In line with the social justice scheme (Yanicki et al, 2015), narratives of social exclusion are based on personal and interpersonal contexts (age, health, communication, autonomy), as well as organizational, community (work) and broader social context (participation in events and politics). The emotionally richest category used for description of feelings of exclusion, non-participation in the society or community is related to exit from labour market, respectively reduced own social value, and feeling of uselessness. Age category in connection with weaker health is used as socially accepted explanation why older people feel being marginalized. Otherwise, in more positive cases strong health and autonomy are seen as main resources for participation in society, which mainly consists of everyday communication with neighbors and relatives, paid work or helping others like taking care for grandchildren, socialization in community and participation in political life. Conclusion. The data shows the need for social policy means reducing old age stigma, increasing the value of experience in old age and toleration of differences in society in general. Encouraging engagement with hobbies, active participation in civil society and in activities of close community in maturity could prevent the drop-out in later life. Volunteering and programs of intergenerational solidarity would be important means of social policy to reduce exclusion in old age, as well. Research results could be useful for social gerontologists, researchers of social exclusion, policy makers and practitioners working with and for older people.