Population Aging and Globalization: The Impact of Cultural and Social Change
- Christopher PhillipsonChristopher PhillipsonSchool of Social Sciences, Manchester University
Globalization has become an influential force in the construction of older age, notably in the framing of social and economic policies designed to manage and regulate demographic change. National institutions such as the welfare state provided a distinctive shape and associated meanings to the final phase of the life course in Western societies during the 20th century. This process was disrupted from the 1990s onward, with a combination of more intense processes of globalization and accelerated international migration. A transformed cultural context is influencing a move from a linear life course toward one in which events influencing later life are scattered across a broad spectrum of time, space, and chronological age.
Globalization will undoubtedly be a major factor in shaping the lives of older people through the 21st century. The types of changes it will bring are easy to predict in some respects, much less so in others. Older people will certainly be living in a culturally and socially diverse world, increasingly aware not only of the aging of their own society but also the impact of growing old on communities across the globe. An additional change will be the influence of supranational bodies in determining policies in areas such as Social Security and health and social care, these creating the framework for resources for support for old age. Globalization—as one constituent of the “risk society”—may also generate new forms of insecurity for individuals, of which anxieties and fears about aging could represent a significant dimension.