“You are Needed and You Exist”: Motivation for Social Participation of Older Activists, Rostov Oblast, Russia


The article aims to identify the sociological approach’s perspective on the reasons behind the continued social engagement of older individuals. In 2021, leaders and activists of social participation practices in the Rostov Oblast aged 65 to 90 years (N = 18) were interviewed. These interviews were analyzed using grounded theory to identify the central motivation for socially significant activities as the desire to attain life satisfaction through contributing positively to others. The participants share comparable socio-demographic and biographical features, including higher education, managerial positions, leadership roles, and involvement in socially significant professions or activities throughout their lives. This indicates that their engagement in social participation is a culmination of their lifetime experiences, thereby supporting the concepts presented by “life course” theories. Motives that are commonly cited include fulfilling moral obligations, establishing connections with important individuals and communities, acquiring resources, gaining social approval and recognition, preserving identity and status, prolonging social life, and ageing postponement. This enables us to discuss the social participation of older adults as a means to combat the aging process, extend social engagement, and advocate for recognition within the frameworks of social exchange theories and the struggle for recognition. Through social participation, individuals accumulate goals and expand their motivational structure, which can result in generativity, i.e., a desire to contribute to improving the lives of others and future generations. This particular type of intrinsic motivation integrates various goals, including those for oneself, for others, with others, and for social change, leading to sustained motivation. The leaders and activists prioritize different motives for social participation. For the former, social recognition, freedom, generativity, and social participation are significant while community involvement is valued more by the latter group. The informants’ motives for participation are consistent with V. Gerchikov’s typological concept of labor motivation and the model of older people’s motivation for social participation as an embodiment of values.

Author Biography

Tatyana S. Kienko, Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russia

Tatyana S. Kienko is a Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and Social and Political Sciences, Southern Federal University, and Associate Professor of the Social Technologies Department. She has authored about 100 articles, book chapters, and books. She has led research projects supported by scientific foundations, including “Social Participation of the Elderly in Russian Regions in the Post-Pandemic Period” (RSF, 2023–2024) and “New Practices of Self-Orgnization and Public Initiatives to Empower the Elderly in Russian Regions” (RFBR, 2021). Her primary research interests include social policy of aging, empowerment and social participation of older people, problems of age inequalities, and other aspects of the sociology of aging. Her recent publications include the following: Kienko, T. S. Social Participation of the Elderly: Approaches to Analysis and Assessment Tools (2023); Kienko, T. S. Older People and the Pandemic: Social Exclusion, Heterogeneity of the Groups of Seniors and Intersectionality of Age Inequalities (2023); Kienko, T. S. The Empowerment Approach as a Methodology for Research and Overcoming Social Issues of People, Groups, and Communities in Mutual Activities: Review and Research Framework (2022).

How to Cite
Kienko, T. (2024). “You are Needed and You Exist”: Motivation for Social Participation of Older Activists, Rostov Oblast, Russia. Changing Societies & Personalities, 8(1), 37–56. doi:10.15826/csp.2024.8.1.262