The politics of old age in the twenty-first century is contentious, encompassing ideological debates about how old age is conceptualised and the rights and welfare entitlements of individuals in later life. Synthesising key theoretical writings in political science, social/critical gerontology and cultural sociology, the book provides an insight into the complexity of older people’s identity politics, its relationship with age-based social policy and how the power of older people’s interest organisations, their legitimacy and existence remain highly contingent on government policy design, political opportunity structures and the prevailing cultural and socio-economic milieu. The book situates the discussion in the international context and outlines findings of an Irish case study which explores the evolution of older people’s interest organisation in Ireland from their inception in the mid-1990s to the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. The book is essential reading for policymakers and organisations interested in ageing, policy and the political process and for students of ageing, social policy and political sociology.
Chapter 2 locates the study of older people’s interest organisations within the sociological, political science and social gerontology literature. The chapter seeks to bridge the divide between these three interrelated yet traditionally distinct disciplines. In doing so it elucidates issues of key salience to the theoretical study of older people interest organisations and discusses the changing meaning of collective identity and identity politics as applied to older people.
Chapter 3 outlines the origins and development of older people’s interest groups. It outlines their evolution in Europe and the United States from the late nineteenth century and the changing nature of older people’s interest representation from the 1950s. The chapter also explores the topic of older people’s interest organisations and political influence and provides a summary of the literature exploring issues of membership and representation.
Chapter 4 provides a historical overview of the ideological evolution of social policy in Ireland and the contemporary politics of old age in Ireland. It provides an introduction into the development of social policy in Ireland, with a particular focus on social policy towards older people. It offers an overview of the emergence and evolution of older people’s interest organisations in Ireland and outlines the institutional and political structures facilitating their participation.
Chapter 5 examines the constituency which older people’s interest organisations in Ireland seek to represent and how they strive to work with and represent this constituency. It examines member’s perspectives on identity politics and their views on old age welfare benefits. Focusing on the notion of collective identity or identity politics it explores whether identity formation is consolidated or defined in older people’s interest organisations and the implications of this for the organisation of older people’s interests.
Policy-makers’ perceptions of older people’s interest organisations and the degree to which these organisation influence the policy making process are addressed in Chapter 6. It explores policy actors’ interpretations and constructions of older people’s interest organisation and the relationship these constructions have with organisations’ involvement in age-based social policy development.
Chapter 7 reflects on the key findings of the study. It explores the interaction of political opportunity structures, organisational resources and the cultural framing process which encompasses both the construction of collective identities and the framing of age-based policy and constructs such as ‘older people’ and ‘representation’.
Chapter 8 looks to the future and discusses possible trajectories for the development of older people’s interest organisations and the potential area of focus they may adopt in the coming decades. It critically explores how older people’s interest organisation define their constituency, generational politics and ageing as a cross-generational issue, ageing in a globalised world and how the politics of old age and the notion of collective identities in later life may evolve in the coming decades.
Chapter 1 contextualizes the study of older people’s interest organisations within the evolving politics of old age. It explores the evolving relationship between old age, the welfare state and the economy and the national and international promotion of older people’s interest organisations. It outlines the relationship between age-based social policy and economics, demographic forecasts, transnational organisations, globalisation and ideological debates surrounding the equity of specific age-based benefits.