Global Ageing: Rising Challenges and a Quest for Opportunities

November, 5 -6, 2013

Aging in humans refers to a multidimensional process of bodily, cognitive, and social change. Aging is an important part of all human cultures reflecting the changes that occur, but also reflecting cultural and societal settlements. The term aging is somewhat ambiguous. We can use ageing to refer to age changes that all people share but also to cultural age-expectations of how people should act as they grow older. As life expectancy rises and birth rates decline in developed countries, the median age itself rises. This process is taking place in nearly every country in the world and can have significant social and economic implications. Bearing in mind the complexity of this object of study it is necessary to approach it from multidisciplinary views.

The Workshop main goal is to provide a meeting point for discerning about aging, understood from different perspectives and levels of analysis. Around four main areas we will discuss a set of issues to address a number of questions and demands that have arisen as transcendent in aging: Ageing and society; Cultural and material care arrangements; Older people’s involvement; and Learning lifelong.


This workshop is designed to foster discussion, so we expect that every participant will actively contribute along the discussions, bringing to the table their expertise and background. Our aim is to transcend the disciplinary borders; therefore we consider the 2-days workshop as one unique session divided in sessions.

Talks will be 20 minutes length, grouped under one of the four areas (or sessions) mentioned above for organizational purposes. Each session will provide enough time for discussion among all the participants. There will also be specific time allocated for a general discussion, or wrapping up, at the end of the workshop.


Ageing and Society

This session is designed to give context to the discussions along the workshop. The departing points are two complementary questions. First, the discussion about the meaning our societies give to the concept senior; and secondly, the economic dimension of ageing from a perspective that goes beyond Welfare State but considers sustainability as a key element. The formal category “older age” is challenged by the life expectancy growth this, in turn, created huge discussions regarding the sustainability of the current Welfare State.

Topics                   ● What is senior today?
a                             ● Economic dimension of ageing beyond Welfare State sustainability

Cultural and material care arrangements

The rapid ageing of population is challenging the traditional ways of coping with long-term care needs. New care arrangements seem to be needed to provide proper responses to the ageing challenge. This has technological implications. Innovative solutions such as telecare and telemedicine has been presented as solutions more effective in economic terms and in compliance with important values such as the promotion of active and independent ageing. Informal and formal carework has been transformed to pursue these values as well, which has led to the configuration of more flexible and service-oriented care arrangements with new spaciotemporal configurations. New definitions of care and ageing, as well as, new actors and distributions of responsibilities emerge within these care arrangements. However, they do not do so in vacuum, these care arrangements and the values and meanings they convey are profoundly embedded in cultural frameworks and intertwined symbolically and materially with a variety and contextually-defined institutions.

This session is an attempt to analyze critically the emergence of new care arrangements for ageing societies and reflect upon some questions that are usually disregarded in the mainstream narratives.

  • Despite these changes above mentioned, the fact that the undertaking of carework is still gendered bias is leading to situations of discrimination, precarity and overburden of women. ¿How these new care arrangements are shaped genderwise? ¿What are the implications for women caregivers but mainly, for male caregivers?
  • Even though the growth of ageing-related innovative solutions has been fostered by promises of cost-effectiveness, the adoption and acceptance of these innovations have turned out to be more complex and thereby more expensive than expected. ¿Has the ageing challenge turned out to be a challenge for the industry of innovation in terms of their way these innovations are designed/produced/implemented? ¿What is the value of innovation? ¿Is it just a mere solution provider? ¿What definitions of care and ageing are actually enacted in the actual design and implementation processes?
  • And more globally, the mainstream aging narrative usually conveys a homogeneous image of the ageing process. As a result of this, the new care arrangements seem to be solutions for all and the problems mentioned above are usually considered as such in whatever context. We should think more carefully about how ageing is culturally shaped both as a global and a local problem.

Topics:                 ● Long-Term dependency and care arrangements
                         ● Role of families and non-profit organizations
● Technological innovations

Older people involvement in politics

Over the recent years the drive to give “older people” a voice has gained momentum. This session will revolve around the growing engagement of older people in policy making, service provision but also in research. Involving older people in the design, delivery, and monitoring of services has become mandatory for many services, institutions, policies and governments. This can be understood as a response to demographic changes. Older people are now the major user group of health and social care. However, this involvement has been usually understood within a consumerist approach, focusing on older people as “costumers” or “users”. Albeit a minority, there’s also an increasing proliferation of older people’s movements and groups that go beyond a mere demand for involvement. Drawing upon the social model of disability and other wider movements, most of these self-advocacy groups assert their right to be active participants in the shaping of society and for control over their own lives. This session will critically reflect upon such contrasts and compare institutional top-down perspectives of older people’s involvement to more grassroots expressions of self-advocacy and self-determination.

Topics:                 ● Pros and cons of older people’s involvement practices?
a                            ● Self-advocacy and self-determination: political action and collective identity
a                            ● Participation and ageing activism: who gets involved?

Learning lifelong

Aging affects a wide range of functions. Despite the gradual decline described in aging, some seniors are able to keep their cognitive functions with minimal differences in performance compared to healthy young subjects; it is what is known as “successful cognitive aging”. Recent studies show that the balanced and plastic reorganization of brain networks underlies successful cognitive aging. Furthermore, the protective role of education on age-related or decline changes in cognition is a longstanding, well documented concept supported by a large set of complementary data. These findings are more generally interpreted under the concept of cognitive reserve. This concept is focused on the ability to optimize performance based on more efficient brain network utilization, and may vary depending on environment and lifetime exposure to certain environmental factors (education, Intelligence quotient, occupation, social and physical activities, complex mental activities, use of digital technology, etc.). This session is designed to understand how brain plasticity and cognitive functions change across the lifespan and to identify factors that might keep a fine-tuned balance which optimizes functionality. Sustaining cognitive functions across the lifespan and improving teaching and learning for older adults in formal and non-formal education must be one of the main goals to help older adults in their daily lives and to fulfill their overt and covert learning needs.

Topics:                          ● Learnability
a                                    ● Brain Plasticity
a                                     ● Cognitive reserve
a                                    ● Intergenerational Learning



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