International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy
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International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy

Sarah Harper, Kate Hamblin, Jaco Hoffman, Kenneth Howse and George Leeson

The International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy explores the challenges arising from the ageing of populations across the globe for government, policy makers, the private sector and civil society. It examines various national state approaches to welfare provisions for older people, and highlights alternatives based around the voluntary and third-party sector, families and private initiatives. The Handbook is highly relevant for academics interested in this critical issue, and offers important messages for policy makers and practitioners.
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Chapter 18: Aging electorates and gerontocracy: the politics of aging in a global world

Fernando M. Torres-Gil and Kimberly Spencer-Suarez


This chapter examines the evolving nature of politics and aging in a global world where most nations are now confronting fundamental demographic changes. The continued increase in longevity, coupled with declining fertility rates, ensures that most nations, especially those in the developed world (e.g. the EU, Asia and North America), will see an increase in their older populations and the potential of a politics of aging centered on generational tensions and public policy demands. This chapter examines several countries and spotlights variations in the evolving nature of the politics of aging. It focuses primarily on the politics of aging in the USA to present a historical overview of how interest-group politics shape elderly expectations and demands but also of how the new demographics are altering public policy trade-offs. In addition, it examines the cases of Korea, China and the EU to describe diverse approaches to the nexus of aging, politics, public policy and diversity. Our assessment of aging electorates and gerontocracy suggests that we are embarking on a new era of old-age demands for an increasing share of potentially limited public resources and that nations must elevate intergenerational trade-offs with the realities of longevity and declining fertility rates. How these dilemmas are managed may determine the substantive contributions of older persons, or it may signal increased tensions between young and old.

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