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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Experiences of aging and the role of personal relationships in Chilean society : personal communities, social capital and policy context Torrejón Carvacho, María-José


The rapid process of population aging and the effect of an induced process of modernization since the early 1980’s in Chile have prompted questions about the quantity and quality of older people’s formal and informal networks of support. Socio-cultural changes reflecting values of an individualized society put into question the mandatory character of traditional family support. Using a conceptual framework that combines a focus on bonding and bridging social capital, on personal communities and that employs a narrative approach to policy analysis, this thesis investigates to what extent and under which circumstances older people living in an urban area exchange help and complement family resources with other types of personal ties (e.g. friends, neighbours, and/or state organizations). Paying particular attention to the composition, function and meaning of personal ties in later life, I draw on 40 in-depth interviews with people between 60 and 74 years old living in the city of Santiago and analyze the Chilean “Integral Policy for Positive Aging 2012-2025” to answer this research question. The findings show how older people become integrated in society through the management of a network of diverse personal ties. They highlight the nuances in the meaning and function of these ties in a context of low institutional trust and neoliberal social policies. The research contributes to existing literature by: a) clearly differentiating bonding from strong ties, and bridging from weak ties, while stressing the role of bonding ties acting as bridging social capital to connect the older person to key symbolic and practical resources in a context of low trust; b) offering a conceptual and methodological framework to recognize the normative and cultural aspects of social policies on aging; c) explicitly considering the role of the socio-cultural context of a country of the global south in the creation of personal communities.

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