Dear RC11 members,
Welcome to this edition of the RC11 newsletter, kindly and expertly compiled by our new Communications Officer Ignacio Madero-Cabib from Chile. Here you will find various updates from our international membership, many of whom I had the pleasure of meeting at our most recent conference in Vienna. At the end of the meeting in Vienna, the RC11 committee decided to introduce a new award scheme for early career researchers who have excelled in research in the field of sociology of ageing. More details will be forthcoming in due course, but we will make two of these awards at our next ‘big’ meeting in Toronto (the ISA Wold Congress in 2018).

Although the congress in 2018 might seem a distant prospect, do remember that preparation for these large meeting starts well ahead – the call for sessions will go live in early February 2017 (yes, in a couple of months’ time!!). Special thanks in advance to Julie McMullin, one of our Vice Presidents, who has agreed to act as the conference programme co-ordinator for RC11 on this occasion – this is a really important role, and one that I am confident Julie will handle with aplomb. Read more about the Toronto congress here:

Do remember to look up and contribute to our website – – all members are welcome to add content to this website, whether it be conference alerts or ‘sales pitches’ for new books and other publications – anything ageing-related!

For a reminder of how to upload content, you can contact Alastair Cox: And don’t forget that we also have a Facebook page for RC 11 – please look it up, join and contribute content:

I hope you all get to have a well-deserved break at some point this month, whether it is on a sweltering beach or in a snowy forest, or somewhere in between - and all the best for 2017!

Photo of Virpi Timonen

RC11 Opinions

Pensions as a blind spot in basic income experiments

Kathrin Komp, Helsinki University, Finland

Recently the idea of a basic income became a discussion topic in countries around the globe. A basic income is a social transfer that is given to all members of a society, independent of their living situation and activities. The governments in several countries introduced such an income or are about to introduce it, usually as a trial or an experiment. While these basic income experiments are interesting and innovative as welfare policies, they are worrisome as reforms in times of population ageing. The concern arises because these experiments usually do not consider their effects on pensions, even though pensions are of central concern when populations age.

A basic income can be implemented in many different forms. For example, it can be designed to replace all social transfers or only some of them, it can be designed to be taxable or not taxable, and it can be designed as a direct payment or a negative income tax. Also, the goals for implementing a basic income can be diverse. The implementation can be ideologically motivated, it can strive to simplify welfare policies, or it may even strive to reduce the costs of public administration – even though some experts doubt that the latter goal can be reached with a basic income. The variation in the basic income is necessary, because the countries that are currently implementing or experimenting with it are very different: among them are, for example, Brazil, Namibia, India, Canada, the Netherlands, and Finland.

The basic income experiments usually concentrate on middle-agers only, reasoning that older people can be neglected in these experiments because they rely on pension benefits more strongly than on other social transfers. And since basic income experiments are concerned with social transfers other than pensions, they may just as well omit pensioners from their considerations – so the reasoning. However, if one takes a closer look at the issue, then it becomes apparent that pensions are indeed intrinsically linked with basic income experiments. Pay-as-you-go financed pension schemes redistribute the pension contributions that current (self)employees pay to current pensioners. Consequently, if less pension benefits are payable on a basic income than they were on the social transfers that it replaces, then pension schemes have less money that they can distribute to current pensioners. A related problematic arises is capital-stock based pensions, where pensioners receive benefits that they themselves financed through contributions they made as middle-agers. If a basic income experiment leads people to contribute less to capital-stock based pensions that they did with the social transfers that the experiment replaces, then these individuals will receive fewer pension benefits once they retire.

These considerations show that basic income experiments can indeed influence pensions today and in the future, even though these experiments are primarily concerned with middle-agers. Because basic income experiments can be set up in many different ways, the influence on pensions does not need to be problematic. Quite to the contrary, it should be easy to find a design that does not affect pension schemes or that might even benefit this schemes. The only requirement is that the persons designing basic income experiments are aware of the link of the experiments with pensions and that they recognize the pressure that pension schemes are under because of population ageing. It will probably be up to us as ageing researchers to stress this point in public debates.
Photo of Katrin Komp

Migration and aging: publications at the intersection between population aging and the globalization of international migration

Sandra Torres, Uppsala University, Sweden

Population ageing and international migration are two of the major societal trends that European societies are facing today. These trends affect not only the ways in which we conceive ageing and old age but also the manner in which elderly care is planned and provided. Despite of this, few books have addressed these issues together. One of the reasons for this is that carving a space for a book that tackles issues at the intersection of ageing and migration has not been easy since scholars working on ageing and old age are seldom versed on migration and the opposite is also the case for migration scholars. Ageing and old age have not been in the radar of their research agendas since the quintessential migrant used to be young prior to international migration having become a globalized phenomenon. It is because of this that Ute Karl (University of Luxemburg) and I decided to bring together scholars from these two fields in an edited collection on this topic. Our joint effort resulted in an anthology – titled Ageing in Contexts of Migration - that was published as part of the Routledge Advances in Sociology Series in the beginning of this year.

This edited collection brings together not only the specific angle that migration offers to the study of aging, old age and elderly care but also the angle that the study of aging and old age brings to migration scholarship; a field whose interest on the later stages of life can best be described as lukewarm despite the fact that “there have been overlaps between migration studies and gerontology for decades” (Warnes & White, 2006, p. 1260). Because of this we decided to organize the book in three parts. The idea being that this would allow us to draw attention to some of the different angles around which separate agendas for research at the intersection between migration and ageing can be formulated. Our edited collection focuses therefore on: a) the importance that societal contexts (conceptualized in terms of migration regimes and elderly care regimes) play for the ways in which we think about the intersection of aging and migration in different countries (as is the case in Part I); b) results from empirical studies focusing on older migrants specifically and addressing an array of angles from which their situation can be studied (as is the case in Part II) and c) the ways in which migrants are becoming more involved in elderly care provision around the world (as is the case in Part III).

Coinciding with the release of this book was also the release of another edited collection – together with Sue Lawrence (London Metropolitan University) - focusing on the challenges that international migration and population aging pose to social work practice. This book – titled Older People and Migration: Challenges for Social Work – is a book release of a special issue we guest edited for the European Journal of Social Work a few years ago. The special issue has apparently been downloaded so many times that Routledge decided to publish it in book form. Thus, in light of these developments and the fact that several special issues addressing the intersection in question have just come out (see for example the one just published by Journal of Intercultural Studies on end-of-life issues and the one on older migrants that just came out on Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies), I think that it is fair to say that the intersection of migration and aging is finally receiving the book and special issue coverage that it deserves. This intersection is after all challenging some of the very key notions that have informed research on aging and old age for decades (such as what successful ageing means, how retirement is handled when the life course is transnational and how intergenerational solidarity is affected and shaped when families are dispersed around the world) as well as some of the old-age oblivious ideas that have shaped migration scholarship. Thus, with this short presentation I wish to draw to the intersection in question.

Book tips:
Lawrence, S. & Torres, S. (Eds.) (2016). Older People and Migration: Challenges for Social Work. Routledge.

Karl, U. & Torres, S. (Eds.) (2016). Ageing in Contexts of Migration. Routledge.

Book Reviews

Lain, D. (2016) Reconstructing Retirement: Work and Welfare in the UK and USA. Bristol: Policy Press. 224 pages.

This book explores the changing prospects for work and retirement in the UK and US. As readers will be aware, sociologists have long regarded both countries as having ungenerous ‘liberal’ welfare states and deregulated labour markets. While this ‘laissez faire’ account contains considerable truth, it obscures the fact that US policy has a long history of actively promoting employment beyond age 65. With UK policy now moving in the same direction, this book provides insights on the likely consequences of following a ‘US route’ to extended working lives.

Part one of the book explores the ‘reconstruction of retirement policy’, namely the promotion of employment beyond age 65+ and the ‘dissolving’ of fixed retirement ages. It begins by exploring changes to retirement incomes that increase the financial need for people to be working at age 65+. In both countries this includes increases in state pension age and the withdrawal of benefits for older people exited from work early. Alongside a decline in salary-related occupational pensions, these changes significantly increase financial pressures to work in both countries. The flip-side of this is that theoretical opportunities for people to continue working have also increased. The UK has followed the US path of abolishing mandatory retirement, thereby constraining employers from retiring off staff because of their age. Regulatory reforms in both countries have also made it easier for individuals to work whilst taking a pension, blurring the divide between work and retirement and removing a perceived incentive for individuals to ‘fully’ retire.

Having established the policy context, part two explores ‘the reality’ of working at age 65 to 74; it does this through an analysis of the English Longitudinal study of Ageing and the US Health and Retirement Study. The analysis shows that Americans of this age were more likely to work than their English counterparts, which is not surprising when one takes into account the fact that US mandatory retirement was abolished much earlier than in the UK. However, the pathways to employment at age 65-plus were often not straightforward, and sometimes involved moves into new jobs in older age and/or reductions in working time. The wider literature furthermore suggests that fewer Americans work ‘in retirement’ than expect to, suggesting that they find it harder than they expect to work. This seriously challenges the policy assumption that older people will be able to easily adapt to a policy environment in which there are strong pressures to work. In both countries, working at age 65-74 was most common for those with high education and good health, with the richest consequently being more likely to work than the poorest. Nevertheless, many in the middle appeared to be forced to work for financial reasons in the USA, something we expect to see spreading to the UK/England as the consequences of policy changes are felt.

A ‘reconstruction of retirement’, as set out in the book, is therefore likely to result in high level of uncertainty and inequality among older people. The concluding chapter therefore proposes a series of policy changes across the life course to enhance the security and autonomy of older people.

Timonen, V. (2016). Beyond successful and active ageing: A theory of model ageing. Bristol: Policy Press. 112 pages.

In 2014 I became preoccupied with the idea of successful ageing and cognate concepts such as positive, productive, active and healthy ageing. It seemed to me that these concepts shared something – a family resemblance, if you like. I found myself wondering: what do these concepts that seek to encapsulate ‘ageing well’ have in common? I had of course come across these concepts before then, many times, but perhaps there was something about another birthday bringing me a little closer to ‘old’ that set off a keener interest in the concepts. I was also aware that yet another ‘Centre for Successful Ageing’ was about to be opened in a local hospital, and I started to marvel at the longevity and prevalence of this concept that had always struck me as bordering on marketing lingo.

A Web of Science search, using the key words ‘successful’ and ‘ageing’ (or the US spelling ‘aging’) resulted in staggering 2,743,785 hits, despite the search’s being limited to recent publications. It is evident that in addition to policy makers and salespeople who promote successful and active ageing as a way to achieve their aims (reforming old-age policy, selling stuff to older people), academics and researchers have generated a huge corpus of work around these concepts. There are also many academic works that challenge the concepts of successful and active ageing; yet the literature lacked a comprehensive, theory-oriented critique of these ubiquitous concepts. Perhaps this is not surprising in view of the fact that people who conduct research on ageing are one of the vested interests that drive the use of these concepts.

I wrote this book because I felt that critical sociological approaches to ageing are needed more than ever; popular and scholarly literature contain so many ‘celebrations’ of what are essentially the privileges of healthy, wealthy and socially connected (=successfully ageing) older adults that somebody had to do the nasty job of pointing out the downsides of this obsession with success and activity in old age!

Successful ageing literature aimed at a broad readership is just one manifestation of the contemporary ageing enterprise (a term originally coined by Estes, 1979), that is, researchers, business people and policy makers producing and elaborating on a concept that is, for them, a useful reference point and ‘hook’ for research, marketing and policy making. In fact, once I had become attuned to the concepts of active and successful ageing, they kept cropping up everywhere: marketing leaflets for various elder-care services, titles of conference programmes, special issues of journals. Why such ubiquity? Because successful and active ageing are social constructs that help to sell products and ideas to people who are usually already ageing reasonably ‘successfully’, and exclude those who are not fit, or wealthy, or motivated enough to purchase or negotiate for themselves the products, lifestyles and statuses that ostensibly enable successful ageing. The concepts of successful and active ageing can also be used to ‘sell’ policy advice and recommendations, prescriptions, if you like, to entire populations. A perusal of current policy statements produced at national and international level indicates that expectations of active ageing are being extended to concern everyone – despite the differential capacities and inclinations of older adults to buy into the models of ageing that are presented to them.

The fact that academics and researchers are also increasingly ‘invested in’ the notions of successful and active ageing concerns me. Those who are supposed to be able to take a more critical stance on successful and active ageing ideation – sociologists of ageing, gerontologists – are often co-opted into this enterprise, not the least because markets and technologies aimed at successful and active ageing are now among the few well-funded areas of research open to social scientists working on questions related to ageing. In addition to being a critique of active and successful ageing notions in the business and policy spheres, this book is therefore also hoped to hold up a light for some self-examination among the academic and research communities that are part of the model ageing enterprise.

Call for Papers

Call for Papers - Special Issue "New Perspectives on Aging Futures" Journal Societies

This Special Issue of Societies invites manuscripts of original research that explore “aging futures” through critical and interdisciplinary perspectives from the social sciences or humanities. According to Nikolas Rose, “contemporary biopolitics is infused with futurity, saturated with anticipations of imagined futures”. How such biopolitics is connected to age and aging forms the theme of this issue. Topics may …

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Workshop for PhD students (Helsinki, Finland, May 17-19, 2017)

Workshop for PhD students: “Life-course influences on retirement: Researchers' and stakeholders' perspectives” Helsinki, Finland, May 17-19, 2017. The European population is ageing rapidly. This demographic change creates challenges to workplaces and pension schemes, among others. The diminishing number or workers and the growing number of retirees are of special concern, because they strain the economy and public budgets …

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13th ESA Conference, August 29 - September 1, 2017, Athens, Greece

With the theme (Un)Making Europe: Capitalism, Solidarities, Subjectivities, the 13th Conference of the European Sociological Association is being held in
Athens, Greece, from 29 August to 1 September 2017.

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Call for Abstracts-British Society of Gerontology Annual Conference 2017

The Centre for Innovative Ageing is hosting the British Society of Gerontology Annual Conference 2017 at the Bay Campus of Swansea University from the 5th-7th July. This international conference draws over 300 national and international delegates at the forefront of research, practice and policy regarding ageing and older adults. The conference, whilst having an international appeal, will still retain the …

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Recruitment of pre-doctoral fellows for Purdue’s dual-title PhD program in Sociology and Gerontology

Purdue University is actively seeking candidates for our Dual-Title PhD program in Sociology and Gerontology. Graduate students build disciplinary depth in sociology while integrating interdisciplinary breadth in gerontology. Recent Purdue PhD graduates of this program hold faculty positions at top universities, including Minnesota, Toronto, Baylor, Iowa State, and Chung-Ang. In collaboration with the Center on Aging and the Life Course, Purdue Sociology offers …

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Call for PhD applications (Australia)

We would like to invite students interested in doing a PhD associated with our ARC project to collaborate with us to apply for a Forrest scholarship. Ageing and New Media: A New Analysis of Older Australians’ Support Networks is a collaborative research project coordinated by Loretta Baldassar (Anthropology and Sociology, The University of Western Australia) and Raelene Wilding …

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Growing up in Ireland (GUI): National Longitudinal Study of Children

Growing Up in Ireland is the national longitudinal study of children. It is the most significant survey of its kind ever to take place in this country, and will help us to improve our understanding of children and their development.
MAIN TOPICS: Emotional Development, Child Behaviour, Health, Education, Cognitive processes

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Virpi Timonen, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland


Julie McMullin, The University of Western Ontario, Canada
Merril Silverstein, Syracuse University, United States


Lucie Vidovicová, Masaryk University, Czech Republic


Esteban Calvo, Universidad Diego Portales, Chile


Ignacio Madero-Cabib, Universidad Diego Portales, Chile


Libby Brooke, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
Giuseppina Cersosimo, University of Salerno, Italy
Andreas Hoff, Zittau-Goerlitz University, Germany
Jacob John Kattakayam, University of Kerala, India
Kathrin Komp, University of Helsinki, Finland
Carole-Lynne Le Navenec, University of Calgary, Canada
Wendy Martin, Brunel University, UK
Shirley Nuss, United States
Debora Price, University of Manchester, UK
Ronica Rooks, University of Colorado Denver, United States
Sandra Torres, Uppsala University, Sweden