S6.7 Ageing in the Danish realm – perspectives on aging in Denmark, Greenland and Faroe Islands
Chair: Kamilla Nørtoft
This symposium explores aspects of ageing in the Danish realm that are rarely discussed. We look at experiences of aging populations that are not often represented in ageing research; Greenlanders in Greenland and Denmark, Danes in Greenland and Faroe Islanders in The Faroe Islands.
S6.7.1 Being old in Greenland – life priorities and meaning making
VIVE – Danish Centre of Applied Social Science, Denmarkchool of Nursing, Denmark
Background: Longevity in Greenland is increasing rapidly and within the lifetime of present day older Greenlanders, the development of the Greenlandic welfare state has changed the society dramatically. Thus, the development of the modern state in Greenland has been more compressed than is the case in other Nordic countries. Hence, older Greenlanders experience an old age that would not have been possible to imagine when they were young and it is interesting to study how old age is experienced, how they prioritize in daily life and how they create meaning in their life stories. Methods: This study is based on 40 semi-structured interviews with older Greenlanders living in towns and smaller settlements in Southern and Western Greenland. The interviews were conducted as part of the project Ageing in the Arctic (AgeArc). Results: To most people in the study the relation to nature is very important for their well-being and sense of meaning. Throughout their lives they have had intense and meaningful experiences with and in nature. Linked with this is the traditional Greenlandic food deriving from the local nature. Access to the traditional food is connected to relations to family and friends who provide each other with food after successful hunting and fishing. Experiences of functional losses with old age are also limiting the individual’s access to the nature and to local food. In these cases the individual depends more on social relations, but might likely find it hard to stay in touch with family that live in other towns or settlements. Conclusions: To most older Greenlanders nature and local food are essential elements in a meaningful life. Their access to these elements is often depending on the quality of their social relations and on the level of physical/geographical isolation from family members.
S6.7.2 Being old with a Nordic minority background in Greenland
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Background: In the 1960s and 70s a substantial number of Danish and other Nordic workers from mainly the construction business came to Greenland as part of the construction boom and physical expansion of the towns and the welfare state institutions. Most of them were there for one or several shorter periods and some of them married Greenlanders and stayed. Methods: The empirical data for this study comes from ethnographic fieldwork conducted in relation to the project Ageing in the Arctic (AgeArc). The main methods used are participant observation, informal conversations, and semi-structured interviews with older people, relatives, healthcare workers and administrative staff in the Greenlandic municipalities. Results: Few of the old people with Nordic minority backgrounds speak Greenlandic and with old age and retirement as well as the development of especially language policies in Greenland, these older residents experience a marginalization in their families as well as in society. In many cases their connections to their home countries are weak after living in Greenland for 4-5 decades. Their biggest fear for older age is to move to a nursing home with staff only speaking Greenlandic. Conclusions: In contrast to the minority groups of older people in Scandinavia, the Nordic minority groups are often either married into Greenlandic families or without relatives at all. Besides being a group that the Greenlandic care system will need to get an awareness of, the case can serve as a contribution to discussions of minority groups in Scandinavia and a reminder that also Nordic migrants behave differently than the majority population in the countries they inhabit in larger numbers.
S6.7.3 Migrating in old age – the case of long-term residents of Greenland migrating to Denmark
Marie Louise Dylov
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Background: In the Greenlandic municipalities it is a well-known problem, that resourceful elderly migrates to Denmark when they retire. With them they take their knowledge and resources and their migration creates gaps between the generations in Greenland. For the elderly the movement marks a new beginning in Denmark, far away from the place they have lived all or most of their life. Methods: The study is based on semi-structured interviews with Greenlanders, who have migrated to Denmark, after their 50th birthday. The group of respondents consists of elderly born in both Greenland and Denmark, as the respondents have been chosen based on their long-term residence in Greenland, and not upon their ethnicity. Results: The elderly experience themselves as belonging to the national communities in both Greenland and Denmark. But their feelings of belonging in Denmark are challenged in the encounters with prejudices, new cultural codes and in the lack of help and information about how the Danish society works. Both the elderly themselves and the Danish state are unprepared for the challenges that meet the elderly. Because of their citizenship and their fluency in Danish, they are expected to fit into the Danish society without help. Conclusions: A strong network of social relations is of importance for elderly Greenlanders’ wellbeing in Denmark and at the same time it reinforces their sense of belonging in Danish society. To be recognized and engaged in a local community can thus help to counter the alienation that the elderly experience in other contexts.
S6.7.4 Changing intergenerational relationships in The Faroe Islands
University of Faroe Islands, Denmark
Background: Intergenerational relationships depend on the social and cultural context in which they are embedded and are known to be influenced by family structure, economic conditions and state financed elder care. The Faroe Islands have undergone great changes and development concerning elder care within a short time span compared to other Nordic countries. Within the last decades, taking care of the elderly has changed from being a family matter to become a state or municipal responsibility. Changes in the labour market, structural and demographical changes, including emigration of a great number of younger people studying abroad, have influenced this development. Method: Data derive from individual and group interviews with home-dwelling men and women aged 68 to 91. The study is a discourse analysis exploring how the roles of adult children are constructed and negotiated by older parents in the light of changes in family structures, demographic changes, and policies on elder care. Results: Older parents do not rely on their adult children to support them in later life. On the one hand, this is stated as a natural consequence of geographical distance; on the other hand, despite proximity, adult children were excused for their lacking support by referring to their busy schedules and independent lives. For those having adult children to support them on a daily basis, this was often constructed as an interdependent relationship benefitting both parts. Conclusion: The intergenerational relationship within families have changed in the Faroe Islands. Older parents no longer take for granted that their grown up children will be there to support them in old age if needed. Instead, they expect the state to provide support and care.