Christine Milligan is Professor of Health and Social Geography and Director of the Centre for Ageing Research at Lancaster University, UK. A social scientist, her interests focus particularly around active ageing and the provision of care and support for older people – including ageing in place and care technologies to support ageing in place. Christine has published widely in refereed journal articles and book chapters around these topics, including her book: There’s No Place Like home: Place and Care in and Ageing Society (2009). She has recently completed work with Age UK on interventions to alleviate loneliness and isolation amongst older men; and work for the Marie Curie Cancer Care Research Programme on Unpacking the home’: family carers’ reflections on older people dying at home. Her current research programme includes work around older male care-giving at home and the use of technology to support self-care at home. Christine is also an editor of the International Journal of Health and Place.
Narratives of care: exploring the experiences of older male caregivers
The UK population is rapidly ageing; and whilst many older people lead healthy and active lives – especially in early retirement – with increased age comes an increased risk of declining health and mobility (Milligan, 2009). Informal (family) care-givers play a crucial role in supporting those who experience difficulties in undertaking activities of daily life. This task has historically been undertaken by women. But whilst overall, women still assume a greater caring role than men, recent UK census data reveals that male care-giving increases significantly with age, and indeed exceeds that of older women (ONS, 2013). This shifting landscape of care is not unique to the UK – a small, but growing body of work has highlighted an increase in male care-giving across a range of countries from Europe to North America. Despite this growth, there remains a paucity of research around male care-giving (Baker and Robertson, 2008). Gender is not considered critical to care-giver research, and as a consequence, the gendered nature of care-giving often goes unquestioned. Deepening the sophistication of our knowledge of how older male carers cope with, and experience, care-giving within the home is thus important if we are to understand the challenges they face, the coping mechanisms they employ, and the extent to which their support needs may vary to that of women. In this paper I draw on narrative research with older male spousal caregivers to illustrate how older men experience care-giving at home, the forms of care they undertake and coping strategies they employ to enable them to continue caring. Such insights can help us understand how we might provide and /or develop appropriate interventions to facilitate their ability to more successfully manage their caring role.