Absent bodies and invisible lives

2. (Self)-exclusion of men from the community

Various statistical data, too, confirm that older men are less active than women. The largest discrepancy, in women’s favour, in participation in the community programmes of active ageing in the countries monitored by Eurostat found are in Sweden (14%), Denmark (9.9%), Finland (7.7%), Iceland (7%), Estonia (5.5%) and France (4.9%) (Eurostat, 2017). Although men are more active than women in Croatia, Germany, Turkey and Switzerland, the difference is practically negligible (between 0.2 and 0.6%) (Eurostat, 2017) and should be considered from cultural and religious aspects – but mainly through gender capital. The statistic shows that the discrepancy in Slovenia is 3% in women’s favour (Eurostat, 2017), but men’s participation in various organised programmes of active ageing is substantially more limited: the average share of men in Activity Day Centres in Ljubljana is 15%, while Adult Education Centres and the Third Age University are similarly perceived as predominantly women’s organisations managed by women. Partners on the project came to similar conclusions. The reasons for men’s non-participation in the existing activities are, among others, the feminisation of the learning programmes and their staff (Carragher and Golding, 2015; Owens, 2000), the negative perception of their schooling in the past (Mark and Golding, 2012; McGivney, 1999, 2004), the weakening of cognitive and social capital, which is part of the ageing process and which influences men more than women (Merriam and Kee, 2014; Schuller and Desjardins, 2007; Tett and Maclachlan, 2007).

In view of all the reasons, it is important to find out why older men in a number of countries, including Portugal, Poland, Estonia and Slovenia, have been, essentially speaking, excluded (or self-excluded) as relevant participants in society, because the consequences of their marginalisation can be dramatic. The men’s exclusion and inactivity in the third and fourth life stages have a significant impact on the quality of their lives, on cognitive and mental capital (Golding, 2011a, 2011b, Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project, 2008), on emotional well-being (Williamson, 2011) and, of course, most importantly, on their (subjective) health (Courtenay, 2000; Giles et al., 2005; Golden, Conroy and Lawlor, 2009; Mark and Golding, 2012; Schmidt-Hertha and Rees, 2017). Numerous social factors strongly influence health quality, too. The collective effort of the partners in the project Old Guys Say Yes to Community is to call attention to older men. Gendered experiences and social lives are different from women of their age as well as younger men.