Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Social Capital: Giving Back to the Community
Is retirement a time for doing all the things we have not been able to do before or is it the period of time when we face the decline of aging and death? According to  Kelly & Brratt, “The fantasy of a blissful return to a time when anything is possible, as it was in our youth, is encouraged by the media.”[i] But this seems to primarily be a method of selling anti-aging products.
There is another way to look at retirement that is expressed by Maynard & Kleiber[ii]. Their article moves beyond desires for individual satisfaction and recreation and connects us with continued relationships within our community. They do this using the concept of “social capital” which shows ways that we can remain active and become more civically engaged through informal social connections. The concept of social capital goes way back to the ancient philosopher Aristotle’s view that leisure is an important factor in our quest for excellence. Aristotle believed that “activities are what determines the character of life.” The key to this idea is that happiness can be gained through connections and activities within our social networks.
Maynard and Kleiber define social capital as reciprocity, social connectedness and trust. One key idea that is related to my own activity is the importance of strengthening intergenerational relations, beyond those within one’s own family. Engaging in these activities can have the effect of creating social capital.
Within this framework Elizabeth and I have founded ICAL.CA and The Intergenerational Centre For Action Learning. With these two organizations we have begun creating projects within the community where older and younger persons can perform activates together. To facilitate this work we have also created a website:
Maynard and Kleiber assert that “..strong citizenship requires considerable time and resources. For this reason, we have identified retirees as having great potential for generating social capital and for strengthening citizenship due to their relative economic stability and available time.”
If you are nearing retirement or already retired, what can you bring to the community that will not only make you happy but strengthen relationships and build social capital?
[i] Kelly, M. I Brratt, G. (2007). Retirement: phantasy and reality dying in the saddle or facing up to it. Psychodynamic Practice 13(2): 197-202.
[ii] Maynard, S.S. & Kleiber, D.A. (2005). Using leisure services to build social capital in later life: classical traditions, contemporary realities, and emerging possibilities, Journal of Leisure Research, 37, 475-493.