Older people's experiences of recent urban re-generation: a psychosocial perspective

Buckner, Stefanie (2012) Older people's experiences of recent urban re-generation: a psychosocial perspective. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This study offers a policy-relevant psychosocial understanding of ways in which regeneration can affect the lives of older people. It examined the experiences of people over sixty in England of local regeneration through an in-depth biographical case-based methodology. The fieldwork was conducted in 2006/07 in Bromley by Bow/London and Burnley Wood/Burnley as two urban areas that had been experiencing substantial – and very different - regeneration activity.

A review of the literature indicated that research with a focus on older people in regeneration was limited, and that much scope remained for an in-depth understanding of (older) individuals’ experiences of regeneration as a basis for future policy and practice. The study addressed this gap in knowledge through a psychosocial approach. Older people were conceptualised as psychosocial beings in whose experiencing psychic and social dimensions interact. The study drew on the psychoanalytic theories of Melanie Klein and theorists in the British Object Relations tradition, as well as on the social theory of Pierre Bourdieu as a framework for exploring experiences of regeneration in terms of psychic and social, conscious and unconscious dimensions.

The interview-based Biographical-Narrative Interpretive Method (BNIM) was adopted as a method capable of yielding the kind of detailed data that can provide the empirical basis of a psychoanalytically-informed psychosocial approach. Sixteen interviews were conducted. Interview analysis involved panels. Three fully developed contrasting case studies are presented in the thesis. Further case material from the remaining interviews that supported or confounded the analysis arising from these three core cases is presented in the form of twelve summary vignettes.

The study concludes that local regeneration can work well for older people and their communities where it provides containing structures that facilitate relations of recognition across difference and enable older people to experience a sense of well-being in contemporary mixed communities. It argues that, in addition to sustaining the rights of both older individuals themselves and others, it is crucial that regeneration initiatives foster bonds that unite people across difference. In this, the wider political context can play an important facilitating role by sustaining a reparative politics that places a premium on promoting justice, care and relations of recognition and solidarity.

The study adds a psychosocial perspective to a limited body of existing work with a specific focus on regeneration and older people. Involving detailed attention to unconscious mechanisms and defences, it offers a complex understanding of the processes through which regeneration can become a beneficial or negative experience for older people in terms of an interaction of psychic and social dimensions of personal experience. The depth of this understanding has not been matched by policy-focussed research into how well regeneration has ‘worked’. The study thus makes an original contribution to knowledge that can inform future regeneration policy and practice.

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