Since 2018, I have been conducting research on the intersection of aging, old age, health, and the workplace. In my first postdoc at IUMSP (Lausanne University Hospital) I was collaborating in a project supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) on health promotion at work through the lens of breastfeeding.
During my subsequent SNSF fellowships at Goethe University Frankfurt, University of Chicago, and Konstanz University, I examined how members from specific occupations accompany old age at work.
A third strand of research now looks at older workers (45/50 and above) and aims at identifying the factors that influence a healthy experience at work, and how these factors influence employment patterns and retirement aspirations. A particular focus is put on gendered ageing and the complex production of economic inequalities in later life by studying the impact of perimenopausal symptoms on women’s labor force participation and career performance.
The significance of breastfeeding in public health has been well-documented, yet it is not widely acknowledged. This research project, in which I was a postdoctoral researcher, examined breastfeeding in the workplace from both a public health and gender equality perspective. In Switzerland, returning to work after maternity leave often results in mothers stopping breastfeeding, despite a law allowing them to continue. We investigated the experiences of mothers to better understand the social dynamics surrounding breastfeeding at work, with a particular focus on the concept of “choice.” Our findings revealed that most employers do not view breastfeeding at work as part of the workplace culture and consider it as a private matter. Additionally, the solutions proposed to support breastfeeding at work often involve women stepping away from paid work, such as taking unpaid leave or working part-time, which can create precarious situations and disproportionately affect mothers. Our research highlights that achieving equality in the workplace can only be accomplished by recognizing breastfeeding as a public health issue and implementing policies and measures that allow for better balancing of work and breastfeeding. The lack of consideration for the needs of women returning to work after childbirth highlights that many workplaces are not gender neutral.
Old Age management by members of peripheral occupations
Between 2018 and 2020, I conducted sociological research on the management of old age in institutions such as nursing homes for the elderly in Germany. My research focus was on the role of professionals from non-nursing occupations, who are often considered “peripheral” but play a crucial role in the management of old age in institutional settings. Through my study, I aimed to understand the ways in which these professionals contribute to the socially differentiated construction of old age and their role in shaping the experiences of elderly people in these institutions.
The two projects I conducted provided insight into the occupational dynamics of aging management by analyzing the various forms of interprofessional collaboration. I examined the social division of labor, the delegation of responsibilities, and the blurred boundaries between different occupational groups and volunteer workers. I aimed to gain insight into their perceptions of the value of their work, as well as their ethical perspectives on what constitutes “good” aging management. My ultimate goal was to provide a comprehensive understanding of the collective organization of aging within institutional settings, as shaped by the workers involved in the local “constellation of care.”
See also: call for paper for a Special Issue which will be published by the end of 2023.