The given paper presents the comparative analysis of 94 reports which were announced at the XVIII World Congress of Sociology held in Yokohama, Japan in July, 2014. All reports considered the questions of aging, subjective well-being of older people, economic aspects of population aging and other questions concerning this area. The aim of the paper is to define the main tendencies in studying aging questions that interest the world sociology under the growth of life expectancy, population aging, i.e. increasing cohort of older people in relation to youth and those in midlife in the structure of population, taking into account the current economic crisis and cutting budgets income basis. The results are grouped according to the following criteria with their detailed characteristics: 1) the level of social and economic development of the societies which have become the objects of research: welfare states, developing countries and undeveloped countries; 2) the cultural peculiarities. Due to the analysis in different countries the close traditional attitude to the perceiving the aging, the intergenerational relations give more common ground to the scope of research, as for Japan and China than for Japan and the European countries in terms of the level of social welfare; 3) the scope of studies.
Keywords: Ageing populationageismlater lifesubjective wellbeing of older people
Population aging is one of the main challenges for mankind nowadays. To reveal the main tendencies and challenges for global sociology in studying issues of aging we have carried out the comparative analysis of the reports which were presented at the XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology held in Japan in 2014. According to the goal we have differentiated the most significant criteria. They are the following: level of social and economic development of the studied societies, their cultural characteristic features, the most widespread challenges in studying aging. Grouping reports according to specified criteria allow us to define dependences between a level of development, and cultural features, and those problems which were allocated by researchers in relation to each of the studied societies, and key findings. The comparative analysis was the main method of research.
Methods and Results
To succeed the aims of the study we carried out a comparative analysis of the reports presented at the XVIII World Congress of Sociology in Japan in 2014.
Grouping research into societies according to the level of social and economic development
Grouping the objects of the research into welfare states, developing countries and underdeveloped countries, i.e. the societies which studied the issues of aging means that the groups differ from each other according to the following characteristics:
In economically and socially developed countries which we name welfare states, a number of the interconnected factors defining research interest are observed. The life expectancy growth, i.e. the longer, than earlier period of living of so-called the third age, is combined with the population aging. It means that increasing cohort of older people in the structure of the population in relation to youth and those in midlife aggravates situation with the current economic crisis and cutting budgets income basis.
The Japanese experience shows that people initially expect to live longer when the life expectancy grows and consequently they distribute their forces and their activity. Therefore today's 70-80 -year old people are physically and socially and psychologically younger than the predecessors (Koyano et al., 2014). This poses the questions of developing educational programs for people of the third age and even age-friendly urban environment as the other researchers believe.
Thus, a number of economic and other institutional problems occur: the state budgeting against the crisis is reduced, but medical and social care expenses grow. Three reports are devoted to these questions specifically. The comparative study of the United Kingdom and Japan revealed the intergenerational conflict concerning community resources allocation. The youth considers actual pensioners as egoists, and the state support as unfairly redistributed in their favor (Price et al., 2014). This is not the only research accusing the Baby boomers' generation of having provided for a splendid old age owing to the youth (we are referring here only to welfare states). The Korean researchers, while developing the model of pension reform, believe that generational cleavages were stronger than the class cleavages of labor-capital or insider-outsider (Kim, & Ahn, 2014).
Ten reports, here the greatest number, were dedicated to the necessity of pension reform in developed countries, and to the reforms of the government aged care and elderly care as well.
These questions are raised in developing countries either. The researcher from Argentina assumes that the elderly welfare system and health care system should be ready for the challenges of the contemporary society: population ageing, changes in family structure when families stop growing and supporting their elderly members. He suggests building the situation development model and the demographic profile of the population (Sacco, 2014).
Grouping research on culture types
We group the reports according to the cultural peculiarities of societies:
Other cultural zones, for example the Middle East or Africa have not been included in the analysis due to the total absence of the reports devoted to aging problems in these societies. At the same time, if Africa is presented on the congress scantily and mainly by the reports from the Republic of South Africa, then the Middle East is presented rather widely.
The Scientists from Iran, Pakistan as well as researchers from other countries studying this region are interested in issues of migration, marginalization, religious traditions, etc., but not aging. It can be for its cultural and social peculiarities (population aging processes does not occupy this region). We did not analyze Israeli society according to its cultural differences from the other countries of the region. Anyway it demands the additional analysis. As for the Russian society, the report of Yulia Zelikova, a researcher from Higher School of Economics, is devoted to the designated subject (Zelikova, 2014).
How do cultural differences affect the scope of the studies? It is notedly seen if compare reports from the western and Asian countries. The one and the other emphasize the importance of elderly people inclusiveness into personal relationships. But if the researchers from the western societies where intergenerational relations are weaker focus on the age-friendly communities and even age-friendly cities, and draw a straight-line relationship between social exclusion/inclusion in later life of the elderly and their mental and physical health, then in the Asian countries the personal relations mean the relations with relatives primarily. Life satisfaction among the elderly is directly connected with close inter-generational relations and traditions of cohabitation (Hsiao, 2014). On the other hand, the researchers mark that social changes lead to culture changes in these region either, in particular they weaken the tradition to support elderly relatives. Thus, one-child policy had great influence in Chinese society (Silverstein, 2014).
The feature of the western sociology is ageism. Researchers consider it as a new form of discrimination on the basis of age (Van Dyk, 2014).
Indeed, partly this tradition of thinking is to find discrimination in society, and then to fight against it in every possible way. At the same time, there are also objective aspects of what is called an ageism, for instance, the preference for young people at employment. An intriguing research was conducted with the Canadian elderly men whose average age was 74 years (Hurd, 2014). The respondents did not recognize that they were exposed to discrimination on the basis of age, but assumed that women can feel ageism. They even sounded such indirect features of ageism as preference of society for young people, disassociating themselves from the elderly through expressions like "those old folks" and so forth. The western civilization too strongly cultivates "youth" to be absolutely free from discrimination of an old age. Confucian traditions of Asia protect from it stronger that was also noted in reports.
Grouping research according to the scope of study
According to the scope of the research we have united the presented reports in the following groups:
Ageism – discrimination on the basis of age (5 reports).
To sum up, the analysis of subject and the main conclusions of the reports announced at the XVIII World Congress of Sociology have revealed that as a research problem – the subject of population aging including such aspects as rendering the state support to elderly people, participating public organizations in it, the importance of the intergenerational relations, horizontal communication within various communities, necessity to change urban environment according to aging population requirements and a number of aspects of a problem are the central issues the world sociology focused on.
To conclude, we should pay attention to one case presenting in numerous reports. Today the later life differs from that the previous generations lived. Older people continue being active actors of the social relations, and wish to define conditions of the existence by themselves. Nevertheless, owing to the deficiency of community resources one cannot ignore the possible intergenerational conflict concerning distributing social investments and goods in the near future, it is necessary to develop the state policy based on the balance of interests.
This work was performed by the authors in collaboration with Tomsk Polytechnic University within the project in Evaluation and enhancement of social, economic and emotional wellbeing of older adults under the Agreement No.14.Z50.31.0029.
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17 January 2017
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Social welfare, social services, personal health, public health
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Meshcheryakova, . N., Ilina, G. N., & Kabanova, N. N. (2017). Basic Trends of Studying Aging in Global Sociology. In F. Casati, G. А. Barysheva, & W. Krieger (Eds.), Lifelong Wellbeing in the World - WELLSO 2016, vol 19. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 464-469). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2017.01.63