Social participation is a key element of a healthy later life; and from a life course perspective, social participation declines in later life, due to separation from employment and educational institutions, loss of partners and friends, and restrictions due to functional limitations. Thus, maintaining and increasing participation has gained attention from researchers, program administrators, and policy developers. The term “social participation” means activities that involve social exchange and choice, and volunteering is consistently included. Personal, behavioral, health and social services, economics, and social and physical environmental factors have been associated with social participation and volunteering. Higher levels of human capital, social capital, and cultural capital have been associated with higher levels of participation; and the built and social environment can facilitate engagement. Studies demonstrate the positive effects of social participation and volunteering on physical, cognitive, and psychological health of older adults. Role theory and concepts of coping as well as cognitive enrichment have been used to explain these positive outcomes. Volunteering, as a form of social participation, has received much academic attention in the last decade for a few reasons because, more than other social activities, it is altruistic. This feature may increase the health-producing benefits of engagement as well as create good for the community. It is often referred to as creating a “win-win” for the individual and for society. Individual, group, and community interventions have been developed to increase social participation. However, evidence supporting effectiveness is limited and programs are underutilized. Future directions include wider implementation of interventions and more attention to the role of environment in increasing social participation, the use of technology in social participation, and increased understanding of the pathways through with social participation and volunteering improve well-being in later life.
Nancy Morrow-Howell, Yi Wang, and Takashi Amano
Frank Oswald and Hans-Werner Wahl
Along with the social, economic, care-related, organizational, and technological context, the physical and infrastructural environment indoors and out of the home has gained attention in behavioral aging research as well as in gerontology as a whole since the 1960s. There is, however, an ongoing trend to downplay physical-infrastructural environments in behavioral aging research at the conceptual and empirical level. Therefore, substance is provided to support the usefulness of ecology and aging perspectives for the psychology of aging by mainly addressing North American and European research in the area.
David E. Guest
The sociotechnical approach, developed by psychologists at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in the 1950s, proposes that the design of work should seek to optimize both the social and the technical systems within organizations, offering a counter to ideas of technological determinism. It further suggests that organizations should be viewed as open systems, subject to sometimes unpredictable external and internal influences leading to a need for adaptability. The work group is viewed as the most relevant unit of analysis resulting in advocacy of autonomous work groups offering group members high levels of control over their work. Workers should participate in the design of their work and receive training and support to enable their involvement. This influential concept stimulated a large body of research in many countries. Despite some notable positive examples, outcomes were often mixed, reflecting the challenges of managing and sustaining significant change. The concept of joint optimization has also proved problematic, with psychologists tending to focus on the social system, while engineers give greater emphasis to the technical system. The advent of digital technologies is providing a new impetus to the need to design work to optimize both the social and technical systems, provoking renewed interest in the approach.
Clinton Gahwiler, Lee Hill, and Valérie Grand’Maison
Since the 1970s, significant growth globally has occurred in the related fields of sport, exercise, and performance psychology. In Southern Africa, however, this growth has occurred unevenly and, other than isolated pockets of interest, there has been little teaching, research, or practice. South Africa is an exception, however, even during the years of apartheid. A number of international sport psychology pioneers in fact visited South Africa during the 1970s on sponsored trips. Virtually all this activity took place in the economically advantaged sectors of the country, and it is only since the end of apartheid in 1994 that applied services have been extended to the economically disadvantaged areas through both government and private funding. The 2010s have also seen a growing awareness in other Southern African countries, which have begun sporadically using (mainly foreign-based) sport psychology consultants. Among these countries, Botswana is currently leading the way in developing locally based expertise. Throughout the Southern African region, sport, exercise, and performance psychology remain organizationally underdeveloped and unregulated. Local researchers and practitioners in the field face unique challenges, including a multicultural environment and a lack of resources. In working to overcome these challenges, however, they have the potential to significantly add value to the global knowledge base of sport, exercise, and performance psychology.