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"Go for a senior": From work ability to senior resources, changing perceptions of seniors in working life
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”Go for a senior” was the slogan of the “Norwegian National Initiative for Senior Workers" (the Initiative). The Initiative had a stated aim to initiate and support development projects based on broad participation, dialogical methods and action research. The goal of the Initiative was to promote a better work environment and awareness of the potentials and resources of older employees, and thus prevent forced early exclusion from working life. The project that constitutes the basis for this thesis was part of, and financed by, the Initiative. Active ageing is about recognizing and valuing senior resources in working life. This thesis discusses why and how we can promote active ageing in working life through research interventions at the enterprise level, rather than on the individual level. Through enterprise development based on tripartism and broad participation, the enterprise can better recognize and develop the resources of older workers, and such take action to prevent early exclusion. My research strategy has been to involve local participants, managers and union representatives, as well as national stakeholders and policymakers, in reflections and explorations of the skills and capacities of senior employees in a large public sector organisation in Norway, and thus facilitate a change in thinking about seniors. The thesis consists of a frame article that sets out the main discussion, presents the context for the project, which is the basis for this thesis, discusses research strategy and methodology, analyses the data from the development process in the project and ends with a discussion on sustainability of results. Following this frame article, in part II, are five published, or in the process of being published, articles. These articles move from the societal context for the research, through the practice and practical results of my research project to a theoretical discussion of organisational theory and end with a return to the opening theme of action research as an approach in the field of active ageing. The logic of this order can be seen as an expression of my main argument: active ageing can best be promoted through introduction of the senior resource paradigm, and action research makes possible such a shift. The field of active ageing must be understood in its Norwegian context (chapter 7). The senior resource paradigm must be supported by examples of what these valuable senior resources are and how they can be developed (chapter 8). There are organisational constraints to organisational development that needs to be understood, and action research and organisational theory can be of mutual benefit to each other in this area (chapter 9). Action research lies at the base of my thesis and how I understand this research approach is a central theme in all my work. Ethics is expressed through scientific practice, and I close with an article on how I understand the ethical foundation of action research (chapter 10).