A Relational Sociological Approach to Active Ageing: The Role of Intergenerational Relations and Social Generativity

Donatella Bramanti, Giovanna Rossi, Stefania Giada Meda

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivistapeer review


This paper is a reflection on the concept of active ageing from the perspective of relational sociology. Active ageing is "the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age". The goal of active ageing is to enable people to realise their potential for physical, social and mental wellbeing and to participate in social life also in the last stage of their life cycle. It is a process that takes eventually place in a relational network, may it be the family or society, with a whole range of reciprocal mutual interactions (support, care, etc.). Our considerations are drawn from original elaborations on the SHARE data and data collected for the Italian national survey I do not withdraw. Lengthening of life: A challenge for generations, an opportunity for society (No.=900), thanks to which we found a rather varied distribution of families with three or four generations in Europe and in Italy, and could explore the way Europeans and Italians face the ageing process from a relational viewpoint. In our studies we embrace the perspective of relational sociology (Donati, 2012), which observes the individuals as included in networks of significant relationships. From this point of view, the family is seen as the basic social relation, at the very basis of society, capable of establishing alliances between genders and generations. Furthermore, the family – insofar as it fully expresses its social subjectivity - creates forms of sociality and promotes forms of prosocial belonging for its members. We have analyzed different ways of living the last phase of life on the part of the elderly by combining the (referential) components of meaning with the resources available to them and the rules (structure) that underlie intergenerational exchanges. In particular, we have observed the presence / absence of a generative dimension understood as the capacity / possibility of individuals to contribute to the common good and to experience a good quality of life (Donati, 2014). We have identified several profiles of elderly who are active and supportive either in their families (as grandparents), or in their community (as volunteers in civil society organizations), or both in their families and in their communities as socio-generative elders. We have also highlighted the challenges that aging poses to intergenerational relationships, ie. the isolation of the elders not inserted in significant relational networks; the effort of the “sandwich generation” to provide care simultaneously for the elders and the youths, etc). Solidarity between generations and active behaviors between the generations facilitate the achievement of an age-friendly and inclusive society, where youths, adults and older adults can find their adequate role and the possibility of expressing their potentialities, with a view to the common good (Rossi, Bramanti, Meda 2016). In conclusion, through research data we attempted to frame in relational terms a social phenomenon of growing concern such as active ageing, seeking to show the original aspects that this perspective allows to highlight.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)215-239
Numero di pagine25
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2017


  • Active Ageing
  • Comportamento prosociale
  • Intergenerational relationships
  • Invecchiamento attivo
  • Prosocial behaviour
  • Relational Sociology
  • Relazioni intergenerazionali
  • Sociologia relazionale


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