Theory and Practice in Europe
Edited by Rune Ervik and Tord Skogedal Lindén
Chapter 1: Introducing ageing policy: challenges, ideas and responses in Europe
Demographic changes transform societies and challenge existing institutional solutions and policies across the world. Concerns have been raised about the future financing of pensions and health systems and the scarcity of labour, especially within the care sector. There are worries over ageism, exclusion and marginalization of older people and fears of undermining the generational contract, that is, the ways in which goods and burdens ought to be shared in society between working-age cohorts and older generations. At the same time, in addition to increasing longevity, future ageing also represents more years in good health, and so in terms of physical and mental capacity the experience of being old today is very different from 50 years ago, and probably from what it will be 50 years from now. Technological change is also part of this picture; it contributed strongly to improving the life of previous generations and has a potentially positive role to play in the future. Against this background, the need for policies addressing these challenges and opportunities has increasingly been put on the agenda at various governance levels. This is the topic of our book, which analyses these policy ideas and practices at both the international and the national levels. Our book speaks to the tension between official policies based on a ‘burden of dependency’ assumption, as well as policies stressing the opportunities that come with longevity; thus not readily accepting the claim that demographic development must result in cutbacks in social policy.
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