From the President

Dear colleagues in the RC-11 community,

The past few months have been incredibly challenging and unpredictable for all of us so prior to writing this column I thought long and hard about how one strikes the right balance in a column such as this when one is addressing an audience that has experienced the pandemic in so many different ways. As you all know, our RC-11 community is a global one, and since different countries have addressed the challenges associated with COVID-19 in so many different ways, I am certain that your own experiences and perspectives on this crisis will determine how you interpret this column.
Photo of Sandra Torres
Deciding how to address all of you this time was therefore not easy. I thought about the pros and cons of writing a column that was just RC-11 as usual (which could have been erroneously interpreted if RC-11 matters are the only thing worthy of our attention in these challenging times), or writing one that gave insight into some of the things I have experienced so far. I opted for a column with a personal touch this time since it seems odd to ‘hide behind the role’ in the midst of the chaos we have been experiencing over the past months due to COVID-19. The reason why I settled on a more personal tone is that I believe our humanity should inform our leadership, especially in challenging times like these ones. This is why we sent an e-mail to our members to ask for your own personal reflections on the pandemic. As I sit down to write this column, I do not know if any of you will end up submitting your personal reflections to this newsletter, but henceforth follows a very personal reflection on COVID-19, the challenges we are all facing, as well as the injustices that the pandemic has exposed.

As I sit here today trying to formulate a personal take on this crisis, I cannot start in any other way than by acknowledging the painful truth that some of us have lost loved ones and/or livelihoods due to this pandemic. The devastation that COVID-19 has brought with it, and the consequences we are all bound to live with for decades, is not only difficult to wrap my head around, it is disconcerting in ways that cannot be expressed. Some live in countries that are struggling with high numbers of cases (both in terms of diagnosis and deaths) and/ or have a government that has sent conflicting messages about how this ‘new normal’ should be tackled. Some of you live in countries that have the pandemic under control, have put in place new routines to tackle this ‘new normal’, and can therefore look forward to the end of the year with some certainty as to what you can expect. Some parts of the world have seen rejection of government approaches to COVID-19. The list of variations on country strategies to this pandemic is endless. Irrespective of what it is that you have experienced so far, I am sure you will all agree that this has been a challenging year, and one that will be remembered for years to come.

I happen to live in Sweden, a country that has chosen a unique approach to managing the pandemic. We have not had a lockdown since it was constitutionally tricky for our government to impose such restrictions on its citizens at short notice. The Swedish government chose to rely instead on our ‘common sense’, but defines common sense in ways that have lead people in other countries to wonder what Sweden is doing, and many of us who live here to wonder what we are expected to do, when and how. Our government has encouraged us to work from home if possible, to restrict our use of public transportation, to refrain from gatherings of more than 50 people, to keep hand hygiene and appropriate distance from one another, as well as to stay at home if we exhibit any symptoms. We were, however, incredibly late in formulating a COVID-19 strategy for nursing homes, which means that – as a country – we failed miserably when it comes to protecting our institutionalized older population and consequently witnessed many deaths among them when the pandemic started. Nursing homes have been closed for months with families being allowed to visit under incredibly restricted conditions. The debate here at the moment is around whether or not the deadline that the government had set for opening up nursing homes (which is October 1st) is reasonable considering that we are now seeing an increase of cases in certain parts of Sweden.

The Swedish government chose not to close schools (even though some have used more remote-learning than usual), so families with members that have underlying health conditions that make them at-risk have been in a conundrum ever since this crisis started back in mid-March. The Swedish version of ‘common sense for pandemic management’ does not yet include the use of masks so you rarely see people wearing them in this country. Because the guidelines that the Swedish government has outlined give mixed messages as far as how citizens should follow the recommendations, there is huge variation in how people in different parts of Sweden are handling the pandemic. Although it may seem strange to those of you who live in countries that have chosen a different approach that I cannot actually see any palpable change in people’s behavior when I look out of my apartment’s windows (in central Stockholm), this is what my Goffmanian-approach to people-watching from our balconies suggests. My purview is, of course, limited since my husband and I chose to go into a self-imposed lockdown in mid-March so we seldom go out (I can actually count on one hand how many times I have been out of our apartment building since this started!). However, most of our friends and family tell us that although they are all following the recommendations that the Swedish government has given us, they do not really see that much has in fact changed in the way in which everyday life is being lived in the centre of our beautiful city. Surely, in the late spring we heard more ambulance sirens than usual, and could see that fewer people were out and about. And yes, there are signs everywhere encouraging people to keep appropriate distance, some establishments have installed hand sanitizers and Plexiglas dividers, and an array of social and cultural events have been cancelled, but little seems to have changed when it comes to how people move around in the inner city of Stockholm. Thus, when one conducts participant observation (as I have been doing from my balcony since this pandemic stated), one notes that there is little that attests to the fact that Sweden has had a really high death toll for a country as small as ours. Our population amounts to a little over 10 million, and at this very moment we have had a little under 5, 907 deaths. This places us in 14th place on the global list of deaths per capita. This is why some of us (especially those of us who belong to an at-risk group, are risk-averse by nature, or live in the densely populated parts of a city) have opted to impose lockdowns on ourselves, and our immediate families.

When I tell people here in Sweden that I have been on a very strict self-imposed lockdown since mid-March, most react in disbelief. Some wonder also how me, and my husband, have managed to remain at home for as long as we have while also keeping our dry sense of humor intact. The answer is rather simple, we are both introverts at heart, are fortunate enough to live in a comfortable apartment where we can have some privacy when needed, and are child-free and do not therefore have the added stress of parenting. We also try (each day!) to look on the bright side of life as cheesy as that may sound since our COVID-19 motto is ‘stay safe, stay sane’! Some days we succeed in keeping our anxieties at bay, some days we fail miserably, as I assume is the case for most. For me personally, it is mostly when I speak to my family back in the US and hear how they are experiencing this (which I do every week), or when I hear that an acquaintance or a colleague has lost their life or livelihood that I struggle the most. The situation is dire in so many parts of the world (and that is, of course, not only due to COVID-19), that I sometimes struggle to reconcile what I witness from my window with what I hear when watching CNN or BBC.

My personal experience when it comes to the challenges that this pandemic is posing is most likely atypical, but since I work on the intersection of old age and ethnicity/race, this crisis has augmented my awareness of how unjust and unequal our world actually is. Many of my family members, friends and colleagues have a different take on what COVID-19 disruptions have meant to their everyday lives. I know for example, that many of them are struggling because they have either lost a loved one, lost their livelihoods, or have homes that make it difficult to manage the working from home (WFH) set-up that many governments have encouraged their citizens to adopt, to name but a few. My personal reflection on all of this cannot do justice to the array of ways in which this pandemic is affecting our lives. The statistics are, however, a constant reminder that what we are experiencing will forever change the core of who we are as a society, and potentially for many as people.

Sociologists are always acutely cognizant of the injustices so many face but I think it is fair to say that COVID-19 has augmented the array of disparities that characterize our world. Thus, even though some of us lack first-hand experience of the array of challenges that so many are facing in these troubling times, I don’t think there is a sociologist on this planet that has not reflected on the deepening inequalities arising from COVID-19 while wondering what the long-term consequences of all of this will be. As sociologists of aging, I assume that all of you have noted not only the various ways in which this pandemic is affecting the lives of the older segments of our populations, but also the ways in which the most vulnerable within them have had to pay an incredibly high price. This pandemic is not only an ageist one, it is color-blind as well, but seems also to be able to zero in on the most vulnerable. Thus, in witnessing the injustices that COVID-19 has exposed, and which some of us have experienced first-hand, I sincerely hope that this pandemic has renewed your commitment to scholarship that raises awareness of the needs of our older populations, and aims to improve the policies and practices that have an impact on their lives. Irrespective of how you are handling this at the personal level, this pandemic and the devastation it is leaving behind should urge us to re-commit to using our scholarship (and voice) to do our part to make the world a better place for all of us.

Irrespective of whether or not you are planning to participate in the Forum (we hope you will!), we in the executive board of RC11 sincerely hope that you are all safe. On a final note let me also say that in challenging times such as the ones we have been experiencing for months, it is sometimes useful to remind oneself of a phrase that Southerners in the US often use: “this too shall pass”….

Warmest regards,
Sandra Torres
President of RC-11

PS: Please feel free to drop me a line via e-mail ( if you have feedback, comments and questions about the work we do. RC-11 is our scientific community, so your input as member is highly appreciated!

IV ISA Forum will be held online

The ISA Executive Committee has decided that the IV ISA Forum of Sociology will be held online, starting on February 23, 2021.

In terms of our committee’s upcoming activities, the main thing on our agenda is the ISA Forum, which as you know was postponed. It will now be held online on February 23-27, 2021. Abstracts selected for the Forum initially planned in July 2020 remain valid for the Online Forum to be held in February 2021. Research Committees, Working and Thematic Groups will update and re-open some of their panels, and new calls for abstracts will be opened.

Please note that ISA does not require anyone to be a member in order to present. Registration fees have been reduced to the following rates:
  • Member (<$70,000) $170
  • Member (>$70,000) $210
  • Student Member $110
  • Non-Member $510
  • Student Non-Member $150
The new timeline is:
  • Before October 15, 2020: Authors of the selected abstracts have already confirmed their participation to the Forum and have updated their abstract via the online platform.
  • October 16-25, 2020: RC/WG/TG publish their calls for new abstracts.
    • Our Research Committee has decided to have an open call for abstracts since this will give our program coordinators the greatest flexibility when it comes to putting together thematically interesting sessions. Thus, we welcome abstracts on all topics related to the sociology of aging, old age and/ or aged care.
  • October 26 – November 12, 2020: Submission of new abstracts via online platform.
    • After this deadline, we will group all the new abstracts submitted into thematically coherent sessions.
  • December 15, 2020: Presenters’ registration deadline.
Skill-workshops as part of RC-11’s ISA Forum

Our RC will offer skill-workshops as part of our Forum activities, so if you are a junior scholar who would like training in either publishing in anonymous peer-reviewed journals, and/or the basic skills that sociologists of aging in the beginning of their academic careers need, these pre-conference workshop(s) are for you!

Please contact Sandra Torres directly if you are interested ( so that I know which one of these workshops appeals to you the most (i.e. the one on publishing or the one on basic-everyday skills-to-manage-academia). We do not yet know exactly how the schedule for this activity – which originally belonged to the pre-conference schedule for the Porto Alegre forum – will look but we will be in touch with everyone who expresses interest in participating.

Personal Reflections of our Members on the Covid-19 Pandemic

Reflections on a world at fever pitch – by RC11 member Joe Larragy

Photo of  Dr. Joe Larragy
Dr. Joe Larragy
Lecturer in Social Policy
Chair of Maynooth Green Campus
Department of Applied Social Studies
Maynooth University
Recent exchanges of emails between colleagues in a COST Action network on old age exclusion about the global pandemic prompted me to put a few thoughts down, digitally, so to speak. These thoughts are not all in a gerontological vein - how could they be? - there is so much more to COVID-19 and such a lot to take in.

Only a fortnight before we had our first lockdown – initiated by the closure of Irish schools and colleges in mid-March – I was running a conference on climate justice and just transition at Maynooth University along with a colleague Mary Murphy. We had Ian Gough, author of Heat, Greed and Human Need, a terrific book by an important political economist/sociologist on the interconnectedness of climate change and social inequality that sets out a case for addressing the two issues simultaneously. Indeed he argues that the two are inseparable, and I concur. We also had the pleasure of Anna Coote on her recent (elegantly brief) book on Universal Basic Services. It is a broader view than “universal basic income” and is rooted in Durkheim’s more classical theory of social solidarity.

And then ... we were in lockdown and in an odd way climate change, while quickly eclipsed by COVID-19, was also brought into a new light by the pandemic, which has - belatedly and dramatically – reminded us of the depths of the interface of nature and society. We can’t avoid or deny our finiteness. But, from a moral perspective, it brings to the surface the profound and deepening impact of human activity and contemporary political economy - pushing the limits of our planetary environment to the point of undermining the natural foundations of our social systems.

As to gerontology, the first COVID-19 wave was like a tsunami that tested - and exposed the flaws in - elder care regimes. In Ireland the extra fortifications around our limited intensive care resources, and the wholesale (temporary) state takeover of the substantial private acute sector, provided little defense against the was happening in the nursing homes, where over two thirds of deaths took place. Some nursing homes became Petri dishes for the virus. Everything was disproportionate, and it is simply not good enough, and grossly reductionist in fact, to suggest that this virus selects older people.

Even now, in the Irish context, following some parliamentary and other inquiries, it is not clear what the mechanisms were that accelerated the spread in the nursing homes. Nor is the pattern similar across nursing homes. Some homes, where compliance with general rules were criticised by the inspectorate (HIQA), experienced very few deaths in the spring-summer wave. Other homes, which were fully compliant nonetheless have had disastrous experiences. Deaths in nursing homes were not correlated, it now seems, with failures of compliance. What is going on? Some private homes in the same locality had contrasting experiences. Some public nursing homes got through without deaths while others had extremely high death tolls. Why?

No doubt the devil is in the detail. However, I would be interested in knowing whether people in deep old age with matching morbidity living in the community - and I would hazard to suggest that they at least equal the number in institutional settings - were much exposed to the virus in the first wave. I don’t ask this in the context of guidance to the over 70s to cocoon – a subject of some serious discussion and much chatter – but in the context of the natural insulation that is provided by home and community. I think that there are potential learnings here. So much attention went into isolating those in nursing homes, but to what effect? Did the problem become how to prevent the virus getting out of the nursing home rather than in, as originally intended? Was the virus spread by hospital discharges to nursing homes, or was it due to insecure agency, and mostly migrant, care staff working across several locations? It certainly was not brought into the nursing homes by families, who were effectively locked out by the Nursing Homes association quite early on. While we can sympathise with this move, I wonder did anyone think of asking the older residents themselves?

As the nursing homes toll spiralled in April the debate – largely between medical people – focused on the prioritisation of intensive care resources or the creation of a dedicated step-up facility specifically for ill residents from nursing homes. I – non-medical person that I am – even suggested that some form of step-down arrangement for residents wishing to escape the virus by getting out of the nursing home, for example to board out in one of thousands of empty guest houses with support from community services and families. That idea got absolutely no oxygen. At the time I did not realise quite how insufficient the testing capacity was, and naively thought that residents could get a test before considering this option. Only now at the outset of the second wave, is serial testing in nursing homes taking place, while efforts to ramp up test-and-trace-efforts more generally are still short of the mark.

We are in a new phase. The virus is now hydra-headed, the second wave imminent, already started perhaps, in Ireland. The desire for a total lockdown is gone, even limited restrictions and the “new phase” of “living with COVID“, are hotly contested - the earlier spirit of social solidarity is wearing thin. Will the conditions now place older people living in the community at greater hazard than before, and will the odds improve for nursing home residents?

More widely there is restiveness. Airlines are angry over their losses and their staff are struggling on limited pay, and facing joblessness. Tourism and hospitality have been badly hit. Yet there is no obvious trade-off. Plunging into economic activity, regardless, as Paul Krugman noted in relation to the USA, is quite likely to backfire. Until a vaccine and treatments are available it looks like we have to deal patiently with the devil in the detail and minimise or prevent harm, share resources and meet critical need.

Right now it is Sunday, I’m getting set up for tomorrow’s start of teaching in the coming semester. But the landscape keeps moving and, after months of preparing the campus for social distancing, it looks like we have to do everything online at least for the coming weeks.

Sorry if this sounds more rant than reflection but it feels good to have vented it. Tomorrow, I must go and wash my hands, put on my mask and practice social distancing or make do with going online. As a strictly analogue type of person I do find this heavy going!

New Normal Vs Usual Normal – by RC11 member J. Maria Agnes Sasitha

Ever since the lockdown was announced in India, like every other sector, the field of education has been severely affected by the demands of the pandemic rules. Slowly but soon enough everyone spoke about the new normal. For universities, that is online teaching. Suddenly there was a rain of webinars on a wide range of topics to train, to create awareness and to cope with the pandemic. As educators we also had to follow suit. While we were getting trained about online platforms and the nuances of this technology, we were also organising webinars, initiating a fully online teaching format, training staff with technological support and counselling and mentoring students. It was proposed that educational institutions should start the academic year online. Teachers’ preparedness is always taken for granted but this time students were also meted out with the same treatment. In our institution we undertook a survey to find out the feasibility of, and access to, online teaching among students. Key findings shockingly revealed that the majority of the students possessed only a mobile phone to access online classes and about 10% did not even possess a smart mobile phone. Less said the better about the connectivity issues. This is the reality in a city college severely challenged in India.

As students dutifully connect everyday to online classes has the new normal become ‘the normal’? A subject like sociology which evokes more discussions and participation in class has now dwindled to one or two responses that too because the teacher insists. Constant network interruptions, sharing their devices with siblings and no private space to follow the class makes them shy to unmute and connect with the class, this results in being disconnected with the teacher and subject itself. Across the country, we heard stories of both economic constraints and health care concerns erupting owing to the regular usage of digital devices. Constantly viewing the laptop and phone monitor, for example, has caused physical and psychological damage among some students. In India, there were several cases of students directed into mental health care among students linked to difficulty participating in their university studies. This raised suggestions that students should have been better mentored and prepared for the shift to new online teaching methods to facilitate the adjustment.

We have also forgotten that the so called new normal has come into existence as a lock down measure to deal with the unprecedented pandemic situation. Being within the four walls of one’s home does not spell vacation or even a safe space for some. Stress levels are high due to reasons such as: the pandemic situation, financial loss, abusive relationships and health issues. Under such trying situations, to expect students to attend class and submit class work as ‘normal’, forgets that we are working against the background of a global pandemic! One might wonder, what is the new normal? Can this even be normal? In my opinion the boundary lines between the normal and new normal are completely blurred leaving us in a situation of uncertainty.

Student teacher relationships have been impacted in a negative manner. Social bonding is one of the hidden agendas of curricula which shapes and nurtures individual personality, which is missing in this scenario. Face to face interaction helps in understanding and identifying untold personal and academic issues among students, allowing for timely intervention. Students from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds have multiple challenges. From financial issues to lack of privacy to attend classes and other responsibilities to attend to since they are at home, all this deepens the inequality that is faced in society.

Normal cannot be new and that which becomes normal means it is the standard behaviour. I believe this new should not become the standard for teaching and learning, as it negatively impacts students and teachers alike.

Older Australians are never disposable — not even during a pandemic by RC11 member Barbara Barbosa Neves and Narelle Warren

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare how frail older people are often seen in our society — as a burden, as disposable individuals that have “lived long enough” and whose lives have “passed the use by date.” Discrimination based on age is not new for older people, but it has been amplified by the pandemic. RC11 member Barbara B. Neves and Narelle Warren have written an opinion piece for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation which you can read here:

COVID-19 raises difficult decisions for grandparents and their families by RC11 member Myra Hamilton and Christy Newman

COVID-19 has raised challenging issues in many families in which grandparents play an important role in the provision of childcare while parents participate in paid work. On the one hand parents are likely to need grandparents for support with childcare more than ever – particularly during periods when schools are closed. But on the other, many grandparents will be in the very age group at which there are known to be the strongest risks associated with COVID-19. Consequently, many families have been forced to make some complex and difficult decisions about how to manage ongoing support for each other alongside heightened health risks and financial challenges. COVID-19 has also made visible the huge importance of grandparents in underpinning the childcare system in countries like Australia. When COVID-19 struck and grandparents became an uncertain part of the care equation, the inadequacies in the formal early childhood education and care system were exposed more starkly. RC11 member Associate Professor Myra Hamilton and Associate Professor Christy Newman took a close look at these issues in an opinion piece written early on in the pandemic, which you can read here:

Further Resources on the Covid-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 and social work: A collection of country reports

IASSW draws your attention to a compilation of country reports on the COVID-19 pandemic which it is hosting on the website to provide access to as many people as possible to this resource:

Teaching: Aging, Aged, Ageism under COVID-19

In the Summer of 2020, the Department of Sociology at the University of British Columbia, Canada, collaboratively developed a course on COVID-19 & Society, now free online, and available to the global public through UBC edX. The course includes modules by 15 faculty and 7 graduate students. Course registration for part one of the lecture series, “Social inequality in Global Pandemics,” is now open ( Two lectures may be of particular interest to RC 11 members; other topics are identified on the website.
  • Oct 13: COVID-19 Health (In)Equity & the Opioid Crisis, with Lindsey Richardson
  • Oct 20: Aging, Aged, Ageism under COVID-19, with Anne Martin-Matthews (48 minutes)
Each lecture includes a sociological introduction, discussion prompts, suggested readings, and quiz questions. Once lectures open, they are available for the duration of the course. This free online course opened on Oct 13.


Photo of Dr Karl Hedman
Congratulations to RC11 member Karl Hedman, Jönköping University, for the “Outstanding Methodological Innovation in Gerontological Nursing Research” award of the International Journal of Older People Nursing. He received the award for his publication “Strengths and support of older people affected by precarity in South Louisiana” (see below under ‘Publications’).

Dr Hedman described the inspiration for his research as follows:
“Having lived and worked in Louisiana over the years spending time in senior centers, churches and other social venues I was inspired by the older people who also became my friends in those places. Older people I met before and during the study exhibited wisdom, resilience and vulnerability which inspired me to undertake my ethnographic research at community centers in Louisiana.”

You can find more information about the award and its recipients here:

Call for Positions

2 full time postdoctoral research associates at the University of Manchester

Salary: Grade 6 £32,816 per annum
Hours: Full Time
Duration: 01 February 2021 to 31 January 2026
Location: Oxford Road, Manchester

Applications are sought for 2 full time post-doctoral research associates (Grade 6) on the project “Urbanisation and Population Ageing: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Ageing in Place in Cities” under leadership of Dr. Tine Buffel on a 5-year project funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The aim of this project is to develop an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to understanding how urban environments can adapt to meet the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse ageing population. To do this the research will conduct a systematic examination of the processes and policy initiatives that shape the experience of ‘ageing in place’ for heterogeneous older populations in seven contrasting cities across the world: Akita [Japan]; Bilbao [Spain]; Brno [Czech Republic]; Brussels [Belgium]; Manchester [UK] and Quebec [Canada]. The research will apply a mixed-methods approach drawing upon an interdisciplinary, cross-national comparative framework. In addition, the programme will develop cutting edge ‘co-production’ methods to reach out beyond academia, and to co-produce knowledge and tools in order to enhance policy and public debate in this area. The programme will transform current research on the relationship between ageing and urbanisation by addressing four objectives:
  • Integrate interdisciplinary perspectives and empirical evidence in order to develop a new theoretical understanding of ageing in cities
  • Examine patterns of population ageing across seven case study cities and explore similarities and differences in the ways in which cities have responded to demographic change
  • Investigate the experience of ‘ageing in place’ among diverse populations (long-term residents, ageing migrants, gender, class) living in neighbourhoods undergoing demographic and urban change in diverse city contexts
  • Develop a theoretical framework for assessing age-friendly initiatives
For enquiries about the vacancy, shortlisting and interviews please contact project manager Dr Tine Buffel (Email:

Call for Papers / Call for Abstracts

Call for papers for Special volume “Facing Death: Familial Responses to Illness and Death” in Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research:

Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research announces a call for manuscripts for the special volume: Facing Death: Familial Responses to Illness and Death.

Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research (CPFR), an annual series focusing on cutting-edge topics in family research around the globe, seeks manuscripts for a special volume: Facing Death: Familial Responses to Illness and Death. Although this volume is not limited to submissions related to the current health crisis, it does come at a time when illness and death are at the forefront of global discussions. Social processes surrounding illness and death vary greatly around the world and evolve with time—which has been made evident by the current global pandemic that has challenged the ways in which families operate and experience important life transitions, including the death ritual. To gain a better understanding of how families around the world respond to illness and death, this multidisciplinary volume of CPFR will address such topics as: how parents cope with the loss of a child, employment and caregiving, caregiving across national boundaries, the sandwich generation, gender differences in caregiving and the death process, the death ritual in times of quarantine, individual versus familial bereavement, and child/adolescent development following the death of a parent, among others.

Manuscripts should be limited to 40 double-spaced pages (not including tables, figures, and references), adhere to APA format, and submitted as MS WORD documents. Include an abstract of 150-200 words at the beginning of the manuscript. Christina L. Scott of Whittier College (USA) and Heidi M. Williams of Virginia Tech (USA) will serve as co-editors for the upcoming volume. Please submit manuscripts directly to the editors ( and All manuscript submissions should be original work. Manuscript submission to this call for papers implies a commitment to publishing with CPFR. All manuscripts will undergo peer review.

The deadline for initial submissions is January 31, 2021. Direct all questions to the editors Christina L. Scott ( and Heidi M. Williams (

Projects by RC11 members

AI for Older Australians in Aged-Care Facilities: Challenges and Opportunities

Duration: 2020-2021

Project team: Alan Petersen (Primary CI) with RC11 member Barbara Barbosa Neves (CI), Mor Vered (CI), Adrian Carter (CI), Kate Seear (CI), and Maho Omori (Research Fellow)

Funded by: Interdisciplinary Research Support Scheme in AI & Data Science

This project aims to provide comprehensive knowledge on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is being used in Australian aged-care facilities and the socio-technical, legal, and ethical challenges and opportunities arising from it. We will map AI use in aged-care facilities, in a cross-disciplinary approach, and by engaging staff, residents, and AI developers.

Read more about this project here:

How are (un) equal assessments of the needs of older people created? A study of care managers' internal discussions during case conferences in social services

Photo of the project team, from left to right: Annika Taghizadeh Larsson, Anna Olaison, and Johannes Hjalmarsson Österholm
Photo of the project team, from left to right: Annika Taghizadeh Larsson, Anna Olaison, and Johannes Hjalmarsson Österholm

Duration: 2020-2022

Principal Investigator: RC11 member Dr. Anna Olaison, Uppsala University, Sweden

Funded by: FORTE Swedish Research Council For Health, Working Life and Welfare.

The project aims to explore the internal case conferences where care managers discuss challenges concerning current cases together with colleagues and managers. Case conferences are a central part of the needs assessment process and function as an arena for informal decision-making where one of the ambitions is to create consensus around cases. It is a practice that happens "backstage" i.e. without the participation or transparency of clients, family members or other parties. The project is exploratory and aims to explore how perceptions of different categories of older people and their needs are constructed and applied in discussions about resources and services. The goal is to make visible how inequalities regarding gender, ethnicity and age are created, but also counteracted, in the conversations that take place during the conferences. Knowledge of such, often unconscious, categorization processes can contribute to more and equal needs assessments through further education and professional development of care managers who work in the field of gerontological social work. The empirical material for this project will consist of 40 recorded case conferences containing discussions about 150- 200 cases from different municipalities. The material will be analyzed from a discourse analytical approach. The project is expected to contribute to international ageing research and research on social work-related questions about how categorization processes are conducted in elder care.

For more information about the project contact:

Anna Olaison PhD
Associate Professor in Social Work, CESAR- Centre for Social Work, Department of Sociology, Uppsala University, Sweden

Mature Workers in Organisations (MWOS)

Duration: 2020-2024

Project team: Professor Sharon Parker, Professor Marian Baird, Dr Daniela Andrei, Associate Professor Myra Hamilton, Dr Gigi Petery, Dr Andreea Constantin, Dr Leah Zoszak, Alison Williams, Lucinda Iles, Nate Zetna

Funded by: the Australian Research Council

The Mature Workers in Organisations (MWOS) study, under the auspices of the Australian Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), is investigating barriers to mature workforce participation, especially age discrimination and the accommodation of caring responsibilities. The study aims to help organisations develop policies and practices, including work design, that benefit mature workers as individuals, employees, team members, and carers outside of work. There are three streams to the research as shown in the diagram below:
Flow diagram showing the three streams of research in the Mature Workers in Organisations (MWOS) study
The overall study leader is Professor Sharon Parker from Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, whose team is focusing on Promoting Successful Ageing in the Workforce and Promoting Successful Teams and Organisations. Professor Marian Baird, University of Sydney, leads the Promoting Successful Care Outside of Work stream.

Projects currently underway as part of the study include:
  • a longitudinal benchmarking survey of Australian mature workers aged 45+, currently in its second round;
  • individual mixed-method case studies with a range of Australian organisations, representing different industries, sectors and geographical locations;
  • a qualitative study of mature women’s lifetime financial decision-making; and
  • a qualitative study of Australian employers’ staffing responses to COVID-19, with particular reference to older and younger workers.
More information about the Mature Workers in Organisations (MWOS) study can be found here:

Early Career Researcher Network “Material Gerontology”

Photo of members of the Early Career Researcher Network “Material Gerontology”
Several RC11 members, among them Anna Wanka and Vera Gallistl, received funding for an early career research network called “Material Gerontology”. The network aims to explore the manifold materialities of age and ageing, and theorize later life from the perspective of new materialism(s). The network’s kick-off meeting took place on February 28th-29th in Frankfurt, Germany, and activities have since moved to online events that are partly open for public participation.

News and updates from the network as well as short bios of the network members (in German) can be found here:

New publications by RC11 members

Books in English

Image of the book cover for Social Exclusion in Later Life: Interdisciplinary and Policy Perspectives
Walsh, K., Scharf, T., Van Regenmortel, S., & Wanka, A. (Eds.) (2020).

Social Exclusion in Later Life: Interdisciplinary and Policy Perspectives. International Perspective on Ageing. New York / London: Springer. ISBN 978-3-030-51406-8.

This book is open access and can be accessed here:
Drawing on interdisciplinary, cross-national perspectives, this open access book contributes to the development of a coherent scientific discourse on social exclusion of older people. The book considers five domains of exclusion (services; economic; social relations; civic and socio-cultural; and community and spatial domains), with three chapters dedicated to analysing different dimensions of each exclusion domain. The book also examines the interrelationships between different forms of exclusion, and how outcomes and processes of different kinds of exclusion can be related to one another. In doing so, major cross-cutting themes, such as rights and identity, inclusive service infrastructures, and displacement of marginalised older adult groups, are considered. Finally, in a series of chapters written by international policy stakeholders and policy researchers, the book analyses key policies relevant to social exclusion and older people, including debates linked to sustainable development, EU policy and social rights, welfare and pensions systems, and planning and development. The book’s approach helps to illuminate the comprehensive multidimensionality of social exclusion, and provides insight into the relative nature of disadvantage in later life. With 77 contributors working across 28 nations, the book presents a forward-looking research agenda for social exclusion amongst older people, and will be an important resource for students, researchers and policy stakeholders working on ageing.

Photo of the book cover for Negotiating who the ’Other’ is
Ågård, P. (2020).

Negotiating who the ’Other’ is. Care providers talk about caring for dying patients with migrant backgrounds. Uppsala: Department of Sociology, Uppsala University. ISBN 978-91-506-2816-6.

To request a printed copy of this book, contact the author at:
Most research at the intersection of ethno-cultural minority patients and end-of-life care has been preoccupied with two types of problems: the underrepresentation of patients with an ethno-cultural minority background in end-of-life care and the challenges that these patients are believed to pose to the deliverance of high-quality and user-friendly care. When scholars have focused on these issues, they have tended to assume that it is ethno-cultural diversity as such that poses these problems. Taking a different stance, this study stresses the importance of designing research in a way that does not assume at the outset that the difficulties depicted in the literature are caused by patients’ ethno-cultural diversity. Drawing upon the social constructionist tradition, this study examines care providers’ understandings of caring for patients with ethno-cultural minority backgrounds, and how they negotiate their understandings in talk. As such, this study differs from previous studies that have focused on professional care providers’ experiences of patients categorized as ethno-cultural minorities, in order to explore what precedes these experiences (i.e. their understandings of ethno-cultural diversity, and the expectations they themselves bring to the table when caring for these patients). Based on an analysis of focus group interviews with end-of-life care professionals (n=60) in Sweden – a context where people with migrant backgrounds are often assumed to have an ethno-cultural minority background – this study aims to explore professional characterizations of patients with migrant backgrounds.

Through its focus on talk – and the way in which understandings are negotiated when the professionals talk with one another about what ethno-cultural diversity means, and what caring for patients with migrant backgrounds is like – this study contributes to research about the implications of ethno-cultural diversity in end-of-life care. Thus, by shedding light on the argumentative side of meaning-making this study’s findings suggest that understandings play a greater role in how ethno-cultural diversity is addressed in end-of-life care. In particular, this study shows that the process through which understandings are negotiated plays a vital part in determining which understandings become legitimate descriptions of these patients, their families and interactions with them. The study highlights that the providers seemed to take for granted that patients categorized as ethno-cultural minorities, their families and the interactions they have with them differ from what they consider to be ‘normal’, i.e. patients categorized as Swedes, their families and the interactions with them. Therefore, this study concludes that the understandings brought to fore are underpinned by the notion of ‘Otherness’, and the assumption that ethno-cultural diversity poses challenges to the deliverance of high-quality and user-friendly end-of-life care even if one’s experience of providing care to patients with migrant backgrounds is limited and/or suggests otherwise.

Books in German

Photo of the book cover Kulturgerontologie: Kulturalistische Perspektiven auf das Alter(n) im deutschsprachigen Raum
Kolland, F., Gallistl, V., & Parisot, V. (Hrsg.) (2021).

Kulturgerontologie: Kulturalistische Perspektiven auf das Alter(n) im deutschsprachigen Raum. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. ISBN 978-3-658-31547-4.

Studien unter dem Vorzeichen der Kulturgerontologie verstehen das Alter nicht als eine biologisch definierte Lebensphase, sondern als Teil sozialer Praxis und kultureller Ordnung. Die interdisziplinäre Annäherung
an die Lebensphase Alter passiert dabei vor dem Hintergrund von Praxistheorien, Diskurstheorien, Materialitätstheorien oder Kulturtheorien. Empirisch geht mit dieser Neuausrichtung eine Erforschung des Alltagsnahen und Lebensweltlichen, des impliziten Wissens, der sozio-materiellen Arrangements und der Ästhetisierungen des Alterns einher. Der Band bildet die Vervielfältigung und Synthese von disziplinären Perspektiven der Kulturgerontologie im deutschsprachigen Raum ab und zeigt damit neue Wege auf, die Lebensphase Alter zu gestalten.

Photo of the book cover Handbuch Soziale Arbeit und Alter.
Aner, K., & Karl, U. (Hrsg.) (2020).

Handbuch Soziale Arbeit und Alter. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. ISBN 978-3-658-26623-3.

Das Handbuch betrachtet – in einer umfassend überarbeiteten und ergänzten Auflage – die Lebensphase Alter aus der Perspektive der Sozialen Arbeit. Die Beiträge informieren über die historische und die aktuelle Entwicklung der Sozialen Arbeit mit älteren Menschen
einschließlich dazugehöriger Theoriedebatten, stellen konkrete Handlungsfelder vor und betten diese in die Entwicklungen von Sozialpolitik und Sozialrecht ein. Darüber hinaus werden die Lebenslagen älterer Menschen differenziert dargestellt. Weitere Beiträge gewähren einen Einblick in ausgewählte disziplinäre Diskurse des Alter(n)s als soziale Konstruktion und in die institutionalisierte Alter(n)sforschung.

Mit seinem umfassenden, systematischen und multidisziplinären Zuschnitt eignet sich das Handbuch für Studierende und Lehrende Sozialer Arbeit und zahlreicher anderer Disziplinen, in denen das Thema Alter zunehmend relevant wird. Darüber hinaus kann es Praktiker/-innen sozialer Einrichtungen und Dienste, Sozial- und Kommunalpolitiker/-innen wie auch Verantwortlichen in Vereinen, Verbänden und Initiativen als Nachschlagewerk dienen.

Book Chapters in English

Torres, S. (2020). Cultural diversity and aging: ethnicity, race and minorities. In Ritzer, G. & Rojek, C. (eds). The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. John Wiley & Sons. (no abstract)

Wanka, A. (2020). Life-Course Transitions and Leisure in Later Life – Retirement between Continued Productivity and Late Freedom. In: Kono, S.; Beniwal, A.; Baweja, P. & Spracklen, K. (eds.), Positive Sociology of Leisure: Contemporary Perspectives on Sociology of Leisure. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 137-155.

This chapter provides an in-depth analysis of the transition from work to retirement and its consequences for positive leisure in later life, asking how everyday life leisure practices transform in this transition and how those changes are experienced, facilitated, and evaluated by older adults. Quantitative analysis of German time use data shows that time previously spent on paid work-related activities becomes re-allocated to domestic work, personal activities (sleeping, eating and personal hygiene), as well as practices of media use. Based on qualitative material, such transformations are exemplified by three practice vignettes: having breakfast, watching television and volunteering. Finally, the results are discussed in relation to the concept of positive leisure, arguing for a critical gerontological perspective on leisure in later life.

Articles in English

Baker, S., Waycott, J., Robertson, E., Carrasco, R., Neves, B. B., Hampson, R., & Vetere, F. (2020). Evaluating the use of interactive virtual reality technology with older adults living in residential aged care. Information Processing & Management, 57 (3), 102 - 105.

As technologies gain traction within the aged care community, better understanding their impact becomes vital. This paper reports on a study that explored the deployment of virtual reality (VR) as a tool to engage older adults in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF). The paper has two aims: 1) to identify the benefits and challenges associated with using VR with residents in aged care settings, and 2) to gather the views of older adult residents in RACF about the potential uses of VR in aged care. Five RACF residents and five RACF staff members took part in an intensive two-week evaluation of a VR system. Qualitative data was collected from multiple interviews and via researcher notes and video recordings made during the VR sessions. Results highlight the usability issues that impacted on the aged care residents' ability to use interactive VR technology and the potential negative impact head mounted displays can have on those living with dementia; the role that VR can play in engaging residents who might otherwise self-isolate, and how this can extend to increased engagement with family and friends. We discuss the design challenges that will need to be met in order to ensure that interactive VR technology can be used by residents living in aged care, and the potential for VR to be used as a tool to improve the quality of life of some older residents, particularly those for whom traditional social activities do not appeal.

Calvo, E.; Medina, J.T.; Ornstein, K.; Staudinger, U.M.; Fried, L.P.; & Keyes. 2020, K.M. (2020). Cross-country and historical variation in alcohol consumption among older men and women: Leveraging recently harmonized survey data in 21 countries. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 225(1):1-9.

Alcohol consumption causes greater harm in older than younger adults. As the population ages, understanding cross-country and time-varying drinking patterns of older adults is of critical importance. Available evidence relies primarily on ecological data. We harmonized survey data for 179,881 adults age 50+ observed repeatedly between 1998 and 2016 in 21 countries. Next, we estimated historical variation in consumption across countries (overall and stratified by gender and age group 50−64/65+). On average, 51.95 % of older adults consumed any alcohol over the observed period. For 13 countries, the proportion of older adults who drink increased (mean annual increase: 0.76 percent points). Heavy drinking (men drinks/day>3 or binge>5, women drinks/day>2 or binge>4) peaked at 23.54 % for England in 2010 and lifetime abstainers at 69.65 % for China in 2011. Across countries and among drinkers, consumption frequency was 2.57 days/week, the number of standard drink units when drinking was 2.57, and the average number of drinks/day over a week was 1.12. Consumption patterns varied substantially across countries and historical time. Overall probability and frequency of consumption were higher in men than women, with the largest gaps observed in 2011 for China, but gender gaps decreased (even reversed) in the young old and varied across country and time. Wide variation in older adults’ alcohol consumption across countries and time suggests that broad scale prevention and intervention efforts can be harnessed for potential population-level health benefits. Further variation by gender and age reflect physiological and social factors simultaneously shaping alcohol consumption.

Castillo-Carniglia, A.; Rivera-Aguirre, A.; Calvo, E.; Queirolo, R.; Keyes, K.; & Cerdá, M. (2020). Trends in marijuana use in two Latin American countries: An age, period, and cohort study. Addiction. PMID:32196789.

Uruguay and Chile have the highest levels of marijuana use in Latin America, and have experienced consistent increases during the last two decades. We aim to calculate separate age–period–cohort (APC) effects for pastyear marijuana use in Uruguay and Chile, which have similar epidemiologica, and demographic profiles but diverging paths in cannabis regulation. Design: APC study in which period and cohort effects were estimated as first derivative deviations from their linear age trend, separately by country and gender. Setting: Uruguay and Chile. Participants: General population between 15 and 64 years. Pastyear marijuana use from household surveys with five repeated crosssections between 2001 and 2018 in Uruguay (median n = 4616) and 13 between 1994 and 2018 in Chile (median n = 15 895). Marijuana use prevalence in both countries peaked at 20–24 years of age and increased consistently across calendar years. Period effects were strong and positive, indicating that increases in use were evident across age groups. Relative to 2006 (reference year), Chilean period effects were approximately 48% lower in 1994 and approximately four times higher in 2018; in Uruguay, these effects were approximately 56% lower in 2001 and almost quadrupled in 2018. We observed nonlinear cohort effects in Chile and similar patterns in Uruguay for the overall sample and women. In both countries, marijuana use increased for cohorts born between the mid1970s and early 1990s, even in the context of rising period effects. Prevalence was consistently larger for men, but period increases were stronger in women. Age–period–cohort effects on pastyear marijuana use appear to have been similar in Chile and Uruguay, decreasing with age and increasing over time at heterogeneous growth rates depending on gender and cohort. Current levels of marijuana use, including age and gender disparities, seem to be associated with recent common historical events in these two countries.

Gallistl, V., Rohner, R., Seifert, A., & Wanka, A. (2020). Configuring the Older Non-User: Between Research, Policy and Practice of Digital Exclusion. Social Inclusion, 8 (2): 233 - 243.

Older adults face significant barriers when accessing the Internet. What can be done to address these barriers? This article analyses existing strategies to tackle the age-related digital divide on three different levels: research, policy and practice. It analyses (1) scientific conceptualisations that are used when studying Internet use and non-use in later life, (2) policies that address older adults’ Internet (non-)use in Austria and (3) characteristics of older Austrian non-users of the Internet based on the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE, wave 6). Analysis shows that Austrian policy tends to emphasise the individual responsibility to learn digital technologies, while placing a lower priority on structural issues, such as investments in infrastructure. However, SHARE data shows that only a small percentage of older non-users of the Internet is in fact reached with such interventions. Thus, this article suggests that policy needs to base its strategies on more refined understandings of Internet use and non-use in later life as well as a more nuanced image of the older non-user. A perspective of critical-cultural gerontology, as laid out in this article, highlights that technology adoption is a domestication process that takes place in the everyday lives of older adults, and it is these processes that interventions that tackle the age-related digital divide should take as a starting point.

Hedman, K. (2019). Strengths and Support of Older People in Precarity in South Louisiana. International Journal of Older People Nursing, 14 (2): e12232.

Few empirical studies have examined strengths and support of older people in circumstances of precarity. A better understanding of this problem has the potential to contribute to the development of care planning and delivery. The purpose of the study was to investigate how older people deal with episodes of precarity in South Louisiana. More than 300 hours of participant observation and interviews were conducted with 20 predominantly older African American women in a housing complex for lowincome older persons and two senior citizen centres. The findings demonstrate five central negative conditions of precarity that older people had to manage: (a) loss and discontinuity of homebased healthcare services, (b) stress after loss or disruption of social support, (c) problems of poverty, (d) cognitive impairment and declining health and (e) stress of eviction. Strengths and support that older people used were as follows: (a) spiritual faith, (b) psychological strengths, (c) spiritual relationships, (d) family support, (e) friendships of love and friendships of helpfulness, (f) care and support performed by homebased services, (g) senior centre and housing complex activities, (h) church memberships and activities, and (i) grocery store and café contacts. Homebased services were not sufficient to prevent and reduce precarity for older people because of a lack of and discontinuities in these services. This study adds to the literature about precarity among communitybased older people by demonstrating gaps in care support and medication access. The findings suggest that ongoing state funding and support by homebased services are necessary to support frail older people in precarious living conditions to survive and handle stressful life events by reducing vulnerability and enhancing strengths and supportive resources of older people.

Kelly, C.; Hande, M.J.; Dansereau, L.; Aubrecht, K.; Martin-Matthews, A.; & Williams, A. Doing “whatever they can imagine:” Social task shifting in directly-funded home care”. International Journal of Care and Caring.

Directly funded home care provides funds to individuals to arrange their own services. We ask, what is unique about being a directly funded home care worker? Our qualitative case study in Manitoba, Canada, included an online survey of 95 directly funded workers and interviews with 13 key informants, 24 clients and/or family managers, and 23 workers. Framed by feminist and disability care theories, we found ‘social task shifting’, that is: work that keeps households running and supports socialising; front-line worker involvement in care administration; and blurred relationships. Some directly funded workers are empowered by social task shifting, though the expectations can feel limitless.

Ko, P. C. (2020). Investigating social networks of older Singaporean learners: a mixed methods approach. Educational Gerontology, 46(4), 207-222.

Lifelong learning is regarded as an important channel in promoting active engagement in later life for aging societies. While most studies depict older learners as a group resilient to engaging in lifelong learning, few have addressed the impacts of their social networks on their participation. Drawing on the nationwide lifelong learning program in Singapore, the study explores the extent older Singaporean adults’ social networks influence their involvement in learning courses and illustrates how those networks matter to their motivations. A mixed methods approach consisting of two network instruments (Name Generator and Position Generator) and in-depth interviews based on 30 older Singaporeans (between 50 and 79 years old) were employed. The findings demonstrated that primary family members (spouse and children) were key discussants for older learners, but the narratives showed only children were key supporters. For female learners, husbands’ support could be limited. Such a gender difference was revealed in overlap networks among couples, with male learners receiving greater positive support from their wives. Furthermore, the results showed that single or widowed learners had more non-kin members and diverse network resources, which reflect in their discourses of being highly motivated and active in spreading news of courses. To conclude, the study delivered deeper understandings of how diverse social contexts influence older learners’ motivations. Future research shall continue to focus on variations of network characteristics and network resources to improve the understanding of how significant others and accessible network resources provide social support or opportunities for older learners.

Marston, H.; Ivan, L.; Fernández-Arèvol, M.; Climent Rosales, A.; Gómez-León, M.; Blanche, D.; Earle, S.; Ko, P.-C.; Colas, S.; Bilir, B.; Calikoglu, H., Arslan, H.; Konzia, R.; Kriebernegg, U.; Großschädl, F.; Reer, F.; Quandt, T.; Buttigieg, S.; Silva, P.; Gallistl, V.; Rohner, R. (2020). COVID-19: Technology, Social Connections, Loneliness & Leisure Activities: An International Study Protocol. Frontiers in Sociology https://10.3389/fsoc.2020.574811

Drawn from the stress process model, the pandemic has imposed substantial stress to individual economic and mental wellbeing and has brought in unprecedented disruptions to social life. In light of social distancing measures, and in particular physical distancing because of lockdown policies, the use of digital technologies has been regarded as the alternative to maintain economic and social activities. This paper aims to describe the design and implementation of an online survey created as an urgent, international response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The online survey described here responds to the need of understanding the effects of the pandemic on social interactions/relations and to provide findings on the extent to which digital technology is being utilized by citizens across different communities and countries around the world. It also aims to analyze the association of use of digital technologies with psychological wellbeing and levels of loneliness. The data will be based on the ongoing survey (comprised of several existing and validated instruments on digital use, psychological wellbeing and loneliness), open for three months after roll out (ends by August and September) across 11 countries (Austria, France, Germany, India, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and UK). Participants include residents aged 18 years and older in the countries and snowball sampling is employed via social media platforms. We anticipate that the findings of the survey will provide useful and much needed information on the prevalence of use and intensities of digital technologies among different age groups, gender, socioeconomic groups in a comparative perspective. Moreover, we expect that the future analysis of the data collected will show that different types of digital technologies and intensities of use are associated with psychological wellbeing and loneliness. To conclude, these findings from the study are expected to bring in our understanding the role of digital technologies in affecting individual social and emotional connections during a crisis.

Mikulionienė, S., & Rapolienė, G. (2020). Perceived Incentives and Barriers to Social Participation: the Case of Older Adults Living Alone in Lithuania, Intersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics, 6 (2): 176–194.

Social (non)participation is one of the key elements associated with social exclusion in old age. Scholarship about this topic tends to rely mainly on quantitative research from Western and Northern European countries. The aim of this article, based on qualitative interviews with older people (N=27) in Lithuania, is to give some insight into how older people in an Eastern European country experience social participation, and the reasons they offer for abstaining from engaging in it. Findings are contradictory: social participation is valued by older people for both direct and indirect reasons (e.g. a desire to simply be among people), but they hesitate to participate for a variety of reasons. The article contributes to the academic discussion by providing insights into older people’s perspectives about social participation, their preferences, and, in particular, the backdrop that particular organizations (such as the church) can play in promoting social participation and consequently strengthening the social inclusion of older adults in post-communist countries.

Richardson, R. A.; Keyes, K.M.; Medina, J.T.; & Calvo, E. (2020). Socio-demographic inequalities in depression among older adults: Evidence from 18 countries. Lancet Psychiatry 7(8):673-81.

Socio-demographic inequalities in depression are well established. However, less is known about variation in inequalities across countries. In this study, we describe cross-national variation in sociodemographic inequalities in depression among older adults. Comparing inequalities across countries is an important step towards understanding how the social environment shapes depression risk. In this cross-sectional study, we harmonised data from eight large ageing cohort studies from 18 countries. We restricted our study to adults aged 55 years and older, and measured depression using established cut points in shortened Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression or EURO-D scales. Next, we estimated prevalence ratios for each country by age, marital status, educational attainment, and gender with logistic regression. To compare estimates across countries, we standardised estimates to the mean sociodemographic distribution across our sample. Between Jan 1, 2007, and May 31, 2015, 93 590 older adults completed questions related to depressive symptoms. Sociodemographic inequalities in depression varied substantially across countries. Variation was most apparent for age: prevalence ratios (adults aged 75 years or older vs adults aged 55–65 years) ranged from 2·66 (95% CI 2·13–3·20) in Israel to 0·78 (95% CI 0·72–0·84) in the USA. Heterogeneity by other factors was also apparent. Gender prevalence ratios (women vs men) ranged from 1·07 (95% CI 1·01–1·14) in Korea to 1·96 (95% CI 1·55–2·36) in Greece. Educational prevalence ratios (less than secondary education vs some post-secondary education) ranged from 1·01 (95% CI 0·88–1·14) in Japan to 2·34 (95% CI 2·14–2·55) in the USA. Marital status prevalence ratios (divorced or separated vs married) ranged from 1·11 (95% CI 1·01–1·21) in Chile to 2·01 (95% CI 1·73–2·29) in England. Inequalities in depression among older adults vary substantially across countries, which might be due to country-specific aspects of the social environment. Future research should investigate social inequality determinants of mental health that might inform the design and evaluation of social, economic, and mental health-related policies and interventions to reduce depression.

Sawchuk, D., & Ly, M. (2020). Older women using women's magazines: The construction of knowledgeable selves. Ageing and Society, 1-21.

Women's magazines are widely read in Canada. The popularity of such magazines is significant because critical gerontologists, primarily drawing on content analyses of the magazines, often argue that these publications convey problematic messages about ageing. This article broaches the subject of women's magazines and ageing from a different vantage point, that of the older woman reader herself. This audience-centred research draws on 21 semi-structured interviews with Canadian women over the age of 55. The study examines what older women say about the ageing-related content of women's magazines, along with what they say about how, when and why they read these magazines. Findings illustrate that participants are aware of the inadequate and unrealistic representations of older women in women's magazines. Nonetheless, they value the publications as a source of practical information on a variety of topics and as a light and undemanding source of entertainment and relaxation. The study reveals how participants assess and deploy magazine contents and characteristics in ways that contribute to, and are informed by, their lives and identities as older women. Against the broader cultural context of ageism, using and talking about women's magazines enables the participants to position themselves as knowledgeable and informed on a variety of topics and in multiple interactions, both in explicit reference to the magazines themselves and more generally in their lives.

Torres, S. & Lindblom, J. (2020). Migrant care workers in elderly care: what a study of media representations suggests about Sweden as a caring democracy. International Journal of Aging and Later Life, 14(2): 1-27.

This article sheds light on the ways in which migrant care workers in the elderly care sector were represented in Swedish daily newspaper articles published between 1995 and 2017 (n = 370); it uses the notions of the “ethics of care” and “caring democracy” as a prism through which the findings can be made sense of. By bringing attention to the fact that they are often described as the solution par excellence to the staffing crisis Swedish elderly care is experiencing, this article draws attention to portrayals of these workers as people who are both particularly good at caring and capable of providing culture-appropriate care. Thus, although depicted as “particular Others,” these workers are represented as an asset to the sector – a sector that is thought to offer much needed but highly undervalued services. By bringing attention to both of these representations, and using the theoretical and conceptual framework “ethics of care” formulated by Tronto, the article questions whether Sweden – a country often described as the epitome of an egalitarian society – can be regarded as a caring democracy.

Torrejon, M., & Martin-Matthews, A. (2020). Relationships in late life from a personal communities approach: Perspectives of older people in Chile. Ageing and Society, 1-21.

Although the literature on social capital, social support and social networks uses the concept of emotional support, studies rarely recognise nuances of the emotional relationships in late life. Using a personal communities framework, we examine the subjective meaning of family and friendship ties that form the network of emotionally close relationships of a cohort of Chilean people between 60 and 74 years of age. Chile is an interesting case to investigate personal communities, as the country is facing both a rapid process of population ageing and the consequences of abrupt socio-cultural changes triggered by a military government. We conducted qualitative semi-structured interviews using personal communities diagrams that enabled study participants to reflect on what and how different types of personal ties were important to them. Data analysis included thematic analysis of interview transcripts and classification of identified personal communities using Pahl and Spencer's typology. The personal communities framework proved useful in capturing the composition of older people's networks of close relationships and in reflecting the diverse ways different ties are relevant in late life. We further developed a complementary typology based on the distinction between ‘clustered’ and ‘hierarchical’ personal communities. This complementary typology adds a cultural dimension to understand better emotional closeness in late life in a context of rapid socio-cultural changes affecting levels of social trust.

Torres, S. (2020). Racialization without racism in scholarship on old age. Swiss Journal of Sociology, 46(2): 331-349.

Population aging and international migration have propelled the aging of ethnocultural minorities to the forefront of social scientific inquiries. Examining how scholarship on old age makes sense of ethnicity and race has become relevant. Based on a scoping review of peer-reviewed articles published between 1998 and 2017 (n = 336), the present article asks whether the notions of racialization and racism inform this scholarship and argues that a racism-sensitive research agenda is needed.

Vogelsang, E. M., & Lariscy, J. T. (2020). Let’s Drink to Being Socially Active: Family Characteristics, Social Participation, and Alcohol Abuse across Mid- and Later-life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Researchers and practitioners often extol the health benefits of social relationships and social participation for older adults. Yet they often ignore how these same bonds and activities may contribute to negative health behaviors. Using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (16,065 observations from 7,007 respondents), we examined how family characteristics, family history, and social participation predicted three measures of alcohol abuse between ages 53 and 71. Results indicate that, generally, greater social participation is associated with increased drinking days per month. We also found that religious participation and having ever lived with an alcoholic are each associated with reporting possible alcohol dependence but not with alcohol consumption itself. Lastly, we identified gendered associations between marital dissolution and drinking behavior. These findings contextualize the increasing rates of alcohol abuse among older adults by emphasizing the possible negative consequences of “linked lives” on health via relationship stress and group norms.

Articles in Chinese

Lianquan, Fang, John B. Williamson, and Esteban Calvo. 2020 “Evaluation of China’s rural pension reform in the past 10 years and options for the future: Lessons from the world” [in Chinese]. Development Research 1:94-101.

Articles in German

Wanka, A., & Oswald, F. (Eds.) (2020). Räumliche Anordnungen des Alter(n)s. Schwerpunktheft der Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie 53.

Das Schwerpunktheft umfasst folgende Beiträge:
  • Wanka, A., & Oswald, F. „Mapping age“ - das Verhältnis von Altern und Raum neu denken.
  • Gallistl, V., & Parisot, V. Die Verschränkung von Alter(n) und Raum in kulturellen Bildungsangeboten. Über die räumliche Strukturierung von aktivem Alter(n) am Theater und auf der Alm. [Open Access]
  • Münch, A. Räume des Pflegens. Räumliche Herausforderungen in der informellen Pflege von Menschen mit Demenz qualitativ erforscht.
  • Höppner, G., & Richter, S.A. Neuvermessung des Alter(n)s. Zum Mehrwert einer affektbasierten und ungleichheitssensiblen Bestimmung des Verhältnisses von Raum und Alter(n).
  • Wahl, H.W. Altern ist Veränderung in der Zeit – Doch wo ist der Raum?
  • Kricheldorff, C. „Mapping age“ – eine neue Perspektive auf Alter(n) und Raum.

Articles in Swedish

Ågård, P., Torres, S., & Milberg, A. (2019). Vårdpersonals föreställningar om döende patienter med invandrarbakgrund. Socialmedicinsk tidskrift, 96(6): 840-850.

Studien syftar till att belysa vårdpersonals föreställningar om vård av patienter med invandrarbakgrund i livets slutskede. 60 vårdpersonal intervjuades i elva fokusgrupper. Intervjuerna analyserades genom en kvalitativ innehållsanalys. Analysen visade att vårdpersonalen förväntade sig att interaktioner med dessa patienter skilde sig åt möten med patienter kategoriserade som svenskar. Möten med patienter med invandrarbakgrund beskrevs innebära speciella utmaningar. Följande antaganden präglade vårdpersonalens samtal: patienters bristande kunskap om kroppens autonomi, att kommunikativa utmaningar är typiskt för dessa vårdmöten, att högljuddhet är typiskt eftersom patienterna förväntas visa smärta tydligt samt att de har stora och engagerade familjer. Resultaten väcker frågor om huruvida modeller om etno-kulturell kompetens, vars syfte är att lära ut kulturella och/eller etniskt specifika vårdbehov, inte i själva verket förstärker känslor av oro och okunskap som de delvis syftar att förhindra.

In memoriam

Please note that unless we receive the sad news that one of our members has passed away, we cannot communicate this information via our newsletter. In memoriam columns are an important way through which our RC can celebrate the achievements and contributions of members who have passed away, while also communicate that our RC-11 community has suffered the blow that losing one of its members entails. Thus, if you have news like this to share with us send them to our communications officer Anna Wanka:


Sandra Torres, Uppsala University, Sweden


Lucie Vidovićová, Masaryk University, Czech Republic


Esteban Calvo, Universidad Mayor, Chile


Myra Hamilton, University of New South Wales, Australia


Anna Wanka, University of Frankfurt, Germany


Debora Price, University of Manchester, UK
Candace L. Kemp, Georgia State University, USA
Arvind Kumar Joshi, BHU Varanasi, India
Ilkka Pietila, University of Helsinki, Finland
Luke Gahan, La Trobe University, Australia
Ito Peng, University of Toronto, Canada
Martin Hyde, Swansea University, Wales
Francesco Barbabella, Linnaeus University, Sweden
Wendy Martin, Brunel University, UK
Ignacio Madero-Cabib, University of Chile