Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy
The paper presents some final reflections based on more than two years of research devoted to studying the dynamics among three dimensions closely (and circularly) linked to social inequality: age, poverty (material and/or relational, overt or hidden), and health (objective, perceived). The survey, organized typologically, was conducted on two socially and territorially defined areas of the city of Florence: a mainly working-class neighbourhood and a mainly middle-class one. The research focuses on residents over age 60, a time of life when - as amply shown by the field literature - the processes of social construction of differences and inequalities as well as inter- and intra-generational dynamics become sharper, therefore sociologically more evident. The two case studies provided a new and clearer insight into the condition and perception of age in relation to health and quality of life, in that crucial phase of exit from work’s sphere. Particularly, there are two issues better defined by the research: 1) increased longevity presents a powerful but twofold value: stimulus and resource, difficulties and expectations of concern. 2) Today’s men and women in their sixties and seventies do not perceive themselves as comparable to their age peers of previous generations, making inapplicable the traditional “age paradigm” with its homogeneous and inexorable rhythms, valid “for all and forever”. Therefore, what forcefully emerges - beyond the different social categories – is a demand for more room for the many third-age dimensions and the importance (not just symbolic) of greater freedom of self-definition.