Archive for the 'Ageing' Category

Globalisation and our views on ageing

The world is now a much smaller place, with more and more people choosing to study or work abroad and, consequently, creating transnational families and connections. In this blog post, Martin Hyde, co-author of Ageing and globalisation, discusses how this increase in globalisation has affected conventional views of ageing.


Martin Hyde

Sometime last year my parents called me to say that they wouldn’t be able to meet up on the coming weekend as they had to go and look after my brother’s kids.

Nothing unusual about this, as more and more retirees find themselves called upon to perform grandparenting duties in times of need – in this case my brother had to travel for work and my sister-in-law was not feeling well.

What made this somewhat more unusual was that my parents were in France at the time and my brother lives in Australia. So, they duly cut their stay in France short, bought return tickets to Australia, flew back to the UK packed their bags and went out to Australia for 3 weeks (my brother had had to go to China and South Korea).

“Wherever we look…we seem to see evidence of the increasing globalisation.”

Unusual but not unique. As families become increasingly transnational more and more people are drawn into these long-distance family and caring relationships. But this is not limited to family relationships. Wherever we look, from travel and transport to economics and the media, we seem to see evidence of the increasing globalisation. Continue reading ‘Globalisation and our views on ageing’

Age: the topic that neither Clinton nor Trump dare address



Kate de Medeiros

There is one major topic in the American presidential election that neither candidate – nor the media for that matter – have dared to touch upon: age.

Kate de Medeiros, author of The short guide to aging and gerontology, asks ‘why?’

Age – specifically older age – has been conspicuously absent as a line of personal attack between the candidates, as a demographic target of would-be voters, and as an articulated position regarding health care and pension policies.

Don’t get me wrong. In some respects, I am glad to see that the ageist rhetoric which has clouded other U.S. elections hasn’t appeared this time, at least not explicitly.

Perhaps because the two candidates are so close in age (Trump is 70 years old; Clinton, 68), or because the oldest people in the American baby boomer cohort (those born between 1946 and 1964) are now 70 themselves, we’re not hearing whispers of dementia like in the 2008 election. Then, the 71-year-old John McCain, running against a 47-year-old Barack Obama, was often referred to by contenders and the media as ‘confused’, ‘out of touch’, and lacking vigor and energy.

Of course, chronological age alone says very little about a person or their functional abilities. Although Trump has repeatedly stated that Hilary Clinton ‘doesn’t have the look’ or the ‘stamina’ to be president, it’s unclear if his remarks were based on her gender and a double standard of ‘beauty’, on her age, or something entirely different.

Continue reading ‘Age: the topic that neither Clinton nor Trump dare address’

Age-blaming and the EU Referendum

In today’s guest blog, author Caroline Lodge looks behind the post-Brexit headline ‘age-blaming’ to reveal a different and more nuanced story behind voter choices…

Caroline Lodge

Caroline Lodge

Age-blaming is the practice of blaming older people for social, economic and political problems.

In popular discourse the problem of the old is that they take up too many resources, take more than their fair share of benefits, block beds in hospital, wont move out of their large houses and are responsible for taking Britain out of the EU. This post explores what lies behind the age-blaming that followed the EU referendum result. Continue reading ‘Age-blaming and the EU Referendum’

As pension ages rise, what are our prospects for working longer?

In March of this year the UK government began its long-term review of state pension ages, with a number of commentators predicting large increases in the age of eligibility. David Lain, author of Reconstructing Retirement, sets the context for this review by considering wider changes to retirement policy.

David Lain 4It is commonly said that retirement is changing, with people increasingly expecting to do some form of paid work after ‘retirement’ age.

Sara Rix from AARP, for example, reports perceptions from the US that Baby Boomers will ‘reinvent and/or revolutionise retirement… they will… combine work and leisure in new and more rewarding ways’.

Increasing employment

In reality, however, it is arguably governments that most want us to ‘rethink’ retirement. In my view UK and US governments are actually seeking to reconstruct retirement, by increasing employment at age 65+ and dissolving the notion fixed retirement ages. They are doing this in two ways. Continue reading ‘As pension ages rise, what are our prospects for working longer?’

Theorising and understanding grandparents: why now?

Evolving demographic, economic and social contexts across the globe are creating diverse societies. As a result, grandparenting has become a more commonly experienced and important familial role and one that is more varied and distinctive than it was 50 years ago.  Within these contexts individuals are doing grandparenting in very different ways. These doing’s (or the practices of grandparenting) are strongly influenced by global trends, cultural norms and welfare policies but are also cross cut by individual circumstances and social inequalities including gender, age, martial status, class and access to material resources.

Contemporary Grandparenting, a new book from The Policy Press, explores and emphasizes the interconnectedness of these social-cultural structures and norms, and the practices of grandparents. Some of these trends and responses are explored below:

Ageing and fertility

Increasing mortality and decreasing fertility rates characterize contemporary demographics in both the West and developing nations to varying extents, creating more dynamic and variable family relationships and care patterns.  Media commentators have a tendency to interpret these changes as being about ageing population crises. China, for example faces what Branigan defines as a ‘timebomb’; it is ageing, and at the same time there are reportedly fewer younger people who are able to or willing to care for their elderly family members.  In the UK, this crisis has been described as a significant contemporary economic threat.

However, children and grandchildren have also been found to rely upon their older and ageing grandparents for financial support and other informal forms of care. Part One of Contemporary Grandparenting, nuances this debate by revealing that grandparents are central to supporting the increased participation of women in the workplace, but that this is strongly influenced by welfare policy contexts, which must also be taken into consideration.

Changing ‘family’ structures

‘Family’ is changing; the prevalence of marriage breakdown, divorce and separation, (considered particularly problematic in the UK, the US and parts of Northern Europe, but less so in China and Asia and some southern parts of Europe) has differing implications for how intergenerational relationships are negotiated and interpreted.

The impact of divorce also has varying outcomes in relation to grandparenting; grandparents have been found to cause additional damage in situations of divorce, while others suggest they should have greater rights in being able to adopt grandchildren. Timonen and Doyles’ chapter, in Part Two of the book particularly nuances these arguments by revealing that grandparents make active choices about their level of involvement in the lives of their children and grandchildren and that this does not always sit comfortably with wider welfare contexts.

Global Trends

As well as increasing the importance of grandparenting in family contexts, the authors are keen to acknowledge the role of globalization in altering the family relationships that grandparenting is embedded in. As well as demographic change, societies are characterized by increased geographical mobility, changing trends in paid employment (especially including women’s participation in the labour force) and the increased uptake of communication technologies. Taken together, these trends are altering the ways in which individuals respond to their role and identities as grandparents, as several of the chapters explore.

Contemporary Grandparenting

A significant message of this essential edited collection is that grandparents often act with agency to negotiate increasingly dynamic intergenerational relationships in changing familial and social structures, playing a major role in the provision of care, maintaining and establishing well being and supporting changing families. Speaking to an interdisciplinary audience, this collection significantly brings grandparents into debates about family, welfare state, population ageing and identities.

Anna Tarrant, Contributor to Contemporary Grandparenting
Research Associate in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the Open University.

Fertility decline and population ageing

Yesterday’s Guardian (1st February 2010) included an interesting feature on the consequences of rapidly falling fertility rates. The tone was highly apocalyptic, peppered with references to “population crash”, “baby famine” and a “demographic abyss”. Referring to a near-derelict town in former Eastern Germany, the article suggested that current population trends may spell a similar future for much of the developed world as well as some developing countries. It would seem that we face a future world where children will be found in museums rather than schools. This will be a world largely populated by older people –or as the Guardian puts it in a surprising lapse of political correctness, “The rise of the wrinklies”. Apparently, this will not all be bad news. Even as we are condemned to live in a crumbling economic wasteland, our advanced years will make us “wiser, and greener too”.

This combination of exaggeration, stereotyping and contradiction is not unusual in media commentary on fertility decline and population ageing. There is a substantial and growing body of academic evidence demonstrating that the consequences of population change are highly nuanced and strongly influenced by policy choices. Likewise, experiences of later life are very diverse, eschewing stereotypes. Rather than grapple with these complex issues, journalists are more inclined to simpler sensationalist predictions, such as those found in Peter Petersen’s Grey Dawn or Phillip Longman’s The Empty Cradle. Just as with the old scare stories of population “time bombs”, there is an urgent need for more measured and less clichéd reporting and analysis.

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock
Professor of Social Policy and International Development in the School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK
Population ageing and international development: From generalisation to evidence is now available with 25% discount.

Answers to Malcolm Dean’s quiz

Answers to Malcolm Dean’s social policy and social and demographic trends quiz (posted on November 3rd 2009) are now available below. How did you do?

1. One in five people in the UK are over 60. What was the ratio in 1900?
Answer: 1 in 25

2a. What proportion of women retiring in 2006 were eligible for a full state pension?; 2b. And for men?
Answer: Only 30% of women; 85% of men.

3. There were only 100 centenarians in the UK in 1909.
a. How many were there in 1959?; b. How many in 2009?; c. And how many are projected for 2029?
Answer: 270 in 1959; 12,000 in 2009; 48,000 projected for 2029

4. How much did life expectancy increase per decade in the last century?
Answer: By 2 years every decade.

5. What were the Turner Commission’s three tough options for improving pensions? Which one did they choose?
Answer: In Turner’s interim report the options were: higher taxes; longer working life; increased savings. They chose a combination of all three in the final report.

6. In what way was the Equality and Human Rights Commission, set up in 2007, perpetuating inequalities between the six fields — race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age — when it was monitoring discrimination?
Answer: Initially, in 2007, the EHRC could, where it found discrimination, intervene not just in employment but also in the provision of goods, facilities and services in the first five fields of its remit, but only with employment in respect of age. It was still legally permissible for a pub landlord to refuse an older person a drink on the grounds of age. The 2009 Equality Bill is set to end this anomaly.

7. The UK is still debating whether to abolish a statutory retirement age. Name three other countries which have already done so?
Answer: US in 1967; Ireland in 1998; and Denmark in 2004.

8. Who was Margaret Panting?
Answer: Margaret Panting died in almost identical circumstances to Victoria Climbié, an 8-year old child, who died in 2000 from severe abuse, neglect and multiple injuries inflicted by her great Aunt. Margaret Panting, aged 78, died one year later from similar severe abuse, neglect and multiple injuries within five weeks of being moved from sheltered accommodation to her son-in-law’s house. Victoria’s death generated 303 news and feature stories, 237 of them in the national press. Margaret’s death generated just 5 news stories, only 2 in the nationals.

9. To what extent did inequalities widen during the 18 years of Conservative rule between 1979 and 1997?
Answer: Inequality doubled between 1979 and 1997. In 1979 the post tax income of the richest tenth of the population was 5 times as much as the bottom tenth; by 1997 that ratio doubled to 10 times as much.

10. Means tested benefits increased under both the 1979-97 Conservative Government and between 1997-2009 under New Labour. But how did they differ?
Answer: They doubled under the 1979-1997 Conservative rule – from 17% to 34% of all benefits – which cut public expenditure. They rose under New Labour but increased public spending – through tax credits and pension credit – that were focused on those most in need.

11. Where does the UK come in the 30-member OECD league of developed states in terms of the proportion of the average (male) earnings that state pensions provide?
Answer: Britain is bottom of the OECD league table on state pensions which make up only 31% of average earnings compared to 39% in the US, 43% in Germany, 45% in Canada, 53% in France, 62% in Sweden, 68% in Italy, 80% in Denmark, 81% in Spain, and 88% in Netherlands.

12. When was there a golden age for older people in the UK?
Answer: According to Professor Pat Thane of London University Britain has never had a golden age for older people. She looked back three centuries and found the 1834 report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws noted how civilised nations “and even savages” recognised a duty of care for older people but “we believe that Britain is the only European nation where it (the duty) is neglected.”

Don’t forget, much fuller explanations can be found in Unequal Ageing, buy now for just £13.49 – 25% off the list price – at

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