Social Policies for Old Age: A Story of Shifting Images and Time Lag

  • Kathrin KompEmail author
Part of the International Perspectives on Aging book series (Int. Perspect. Aging, volume 10)


Population aging pushes aging policies up the political agenda and poses new challenges to them. These policies currently need to accommodate a growing number of older people and the increasing healthy life expectancy. Therefore, most Western governments are currently evaluating and reforming their aging policies. In doing so, however, policy-makers are not only guided by empirical facts on old age and by the welfare state design but the image of old age also exerts an influence. Policy-makers need to balance the empirical facts against images when designing aging policies. Moreover, they need to do this while ironing out time lags, which emerge because of the different speeds at which the situation in old age, the image of older people, and aging policies change. This chapter discusses social policies for older people, focusing on the roles of shifting images and time lag.


Welfare State Ideal Type Aging Policy Pension Benefit Welfare Regime 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Penny Sorensen and Cristian Colliander for their insightful comments and suggestions, which helped to improve this chapter. This study is part of the “Panelundersökning av åldrande och de äldre (PSAE) 2010-11” [Panel Survey of Ageing and the Elderly (PSAE) 2010–11], which was funded by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.


  1. Aartsen M, Béland D, Edmondson R, Ginn J, Komp K, Nilsson M, Perek-Bialas J, Sorensen P, Weicht B (2012) Ageing in the light of crises: economic crisis, demographic change, and the search for meaning. Welfare studies working paper no. 12. Umea University, UmeaGoogle Scholar
  2. Aidukaite J (2009) Old welfare state theories and new welfare regimes in Eastern Europe: challenges and implications. Communist Post Communist Stud 42(1):23–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arza C, Kohli M (eds) (2008) Pension reform in Europe: politics, policies and outcomes. Routledge, OxonGoogle Scholar
  4. Béland D (2005) Ideas and social policy: an institutionalist perspective. Soc Policy Admin 39:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Börsch-Supan A, Brandt M, Litwin H, Weber G (eds) (2013) Active ageing and solidarity between generations in Europe: first results from SHARE after the economic crisis. De Gruyter, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowling A (2008) Enhancing later life: how older people perceive active ageing? Aging Ment Health 12(3):293–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cerami A (2006) Social policy in Central and Eastern Europe: the emergence of a new European welfare regime. LIT, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  8. Destatis (2011) Older people in Germany and the EU. Federal Statistical Office of Germany, WiesbadenGoogle Scholar
  9. Edmondson R (2013) Cultural gerontology: valuing older people. In: Komp K, Aartsen M (eds) Old age in Europe. A textbook of gerontology. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 113–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Elder G Jr (1994) Time, human agency, and social change: perspectives on the life course. Soc Psychol Q 57(1):4–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Esping-Andersen G (1990) The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  12. Esping-Andersen G (2003) Towards the good society, once again? In: Esping-Andersen G, Gallie D, Hemerijck A, Myles J (eds) Why we need a new welfare state. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 1–25Google Scholar
  13. Esping-Andersen G, Gallie D, Hemerijck A, Myles J (eds) (2003) Why we need a new welfare state. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. European Commission (2012) Special Eurobarometer 378. Active ageing. European Commission, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  15. Eurostat (2011) Active ageing and solidarity between generations. A statistical portrait of the European Union 2012. Publications Office of the European Union, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  16. Fenger HJM (2007) Welfare regimes in Central and Eastern Europe: incorporating post-communist countries into a welfare-regime typology. Contemp Issues Ideas Soc Sci 3(2):2–30Google Scholar
  17. Ferrera M (1996) The ‘Southern model’ of welfare in social Europe. J Eur Soc Policy 6(1):17–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ferrera M (2005) Welfare state reform in southern Europe: fighting poverty and social exclusion in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  19. Gilleard C, Higgs P (2002) The third age: class, cohort or generation. Ageing Soc 22(3):369–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goerres A (2008) The grey vote: determinants of older voters’ party choice in Britain and West Germany. Elect Stud 27(2):285–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gollob HF, Reichardt CS (1987) Taking account of time lags in causal models. Child Dev 58(1):80–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gouldner AW (2001) The future of intellectuals and the rise of the new class. In: Grusky DB (ed) Social stratification. Class, race and gender in sociological perspective. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 817–830Google Scholar
  23. Grenier A (2012) Transitions and the lifecourse: challenging the constructions of ‘growing old’. Policy Press, BristolGoogle Scholar
  24. International Social Security Association (2013a) Country profile: Bulgaria. Accessed 28 Jun 2013
  25. International Social Security Association (2013b) Country profile: Sweden. Accessed 28 Jun 2013
  26. Johnson P, Conrad C, Thomson D (eds) (1989) Workers versus pensioners: intergenerational justice in an ageing world. Manchester University Press, ManchesterGoogle Scholar
  27. Jönson H (2013) We will be different! Ageism and the temporal construction of old age. Gerontologist 53(2):198–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kohli M (1991) Retirement and the moral economy: a historical interpretation of the German case. In: Minkler M, Estes CL (eds) Critical perspectives on aging: the political and moral economy of growing old. Baywood, Amityville, pp 273–292Google Scholar
  29. Komp K (2010) The young old in Europe—burden on or resource to the welfare state? Dissertation, VU University, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  30. Komp K (2011) The political economy of the third age. In: Carr D, Komp K (eds) Gerontology in the era of the third age. Springer, New York, pp 51–66Google Scholar
  31. Komp K (2013) Reimagining old age in Europe: the effects of changing work and retirement patterns. In: McDaniel S, Zimmer Z (eds) Global ageing in the 21st century. Ashgate, Aldershot, pp 175–193Google Scholar
  32. Komp K, Johansson S (eds) (forthcoming) Lifecourse perspective on ageing populations: a critical and international approach. Policy Press, BristolGoogle Scholar
  33. Komp K, Marier P (forthcoming) The state in ageing Canada: from old age policies to life-course policies. In: Komp K, Johansson S (eds) Lifecourse perspective on ageing populations: a critical and international approach. Policy Press, BristolGoogle Scholar
  34. Komp K, Aartsen M (2013) Introduction: older people under the magnifying glass. In: Komp K, Aartsen M (eds) Old age in Europe. A textbook of gerontology. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Komp K, Béland D (2012) Balancing protection and productivity: international perspectives on social policies for older people. Int J Soc Welf S1(21):S1–S7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Komp K, Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik JHP (2012) Advancing methods for lifecourse research. Capturing life-phases in a categorical variable. Welfare studies working paper 9/2012. Umea University, UmeaGoogle Scholar
  37. Laslett P (1996) A fresh map of life: the emergence of the third age. Macmillan, BasingstokeGoogle Scholar
  38. Leibfried S (1992) Towards a European welfare state? On integrating poverty regimes into the European Community. In: Ferge Z, Kolberg JE (eds) Social policy in a changing Europe. Campus, Frankfurt, pp 245–279Google Scholar
  39. Mannheim K (1928) Das Problem der Generationen [The problem of generations]. Kölner Vierteljahreshefte der Soziologie 7:157–189Google Scholar
  40. Marshall TH, Bottomore T (1992) Citizenship and social class. Pluto Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  41. Morel N, Palier B, Palme J (2012) Beyond the welfare state a we knew it? In: Morel N, Palier B, Palme J (eds) Towards a social investment welfare state: ideas, policies and challenges. Policy Press, Bristol, pp 1–32Google Scholar
  42. Morris R, Caro FG (1997) The young old, productive aging, and public policy. In: Hudson RB (ed) The future of age-based public policy. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 91–103Google Scholar
  43. Morrow-Howell N, Hinterlong J, Sherraden M (eds) (2001) Productive aging: concepts and challenges. Johns Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  44. Moulaert T, Biggs S (2013) International and European policy on work and retirement: reinventing critical perspectives on active ageing and mature subjectivity. Hum Relat 66(1):23–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Neugarten B (1974) Age groups in American society and the rise of the young-old. Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci 415(1):187–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2013) Average effective age of retirement. Accessed 26 Jun 2013
  47. Pierson P (2004) Politics in time: history, institutions, and social analysis. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  48. Riley MW, Riley JW Jr (2000) Age integration: conceptual and historical background. Gerontologist 40(3):266–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Riley MW, Kahn RL, Foner A, Mack KA (eds) (1994) Age and structural lag: society’s failure to provide meaningful opportunities in work, family, and leisure. Wiley, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  50. Salomon JA, Wang H, Freeman MK, Vos T, Flaxman AD, Lopez AD, Murray CJL (2012) Healthy life expectancy for 187 countries, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden Disease Study 2010. Lancet 380(9859):2144–2162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sinn H-W, Uebelmesser S (2002) Pensions and the path to gerontocracy in Germany. Eur J Polit Econ 19(1):153–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Svallfors S (2010) Policy feedback, generational replacement, and attitudes to state intervention: Eastern and Western Germany, 1990–2006. Eur Polit Sci Rev 2(1):119–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. United Nations (2009) World population ageing. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. Weber M (1980) Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundriss der verstehenden Soziologie [Economy and society: outline of the understanding sociology]. Mohr, TuebingenGoogle Scholar
  55. World Health Organization (2002) Active ageing. A policy framework. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  56. World Health Organization (2006) World health statistics 2006. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  57. World Health Organization (2009) World health statistics 2009. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Research/Social PolicyHelsinki UniversityHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations