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.
the impact of transforming old age from a time of relative
security to a period of significant risk (Biggs and Powell, 2001). Underlying this neoliberal globalised agenda is the ‘individualization of the social’ (Ferge, 1997) and the
argument that individuals, rather than the state, must take responsibility for their own
The impact of the globalisation of capital on oldagepolicy has also become more
discernible since the 1990s (Phillipson, 2002). Within this global framework the
social construction of older people as a deserving group and the assumption
as failing to represent the issues of older people in
society, obscures structural power relations and can perpetuate inequalities (ibid.).
Furthermore, it provides for a justification to dismiss the demands of the organisations as merely self-serving, and in so doing compromise their work. In times of
economic recession, it may also provide a justification to selectively reduce financial
support allocated to some of the organisations.
The manner in which policy actors frame constructs such as ‘older people’ and ‘oldagepolicy’ is also relevant to the work of the
critically unpack the origins and functions
of particular cultural categories. Finally, additional areas which warrant further
research include the manner in which organisations conceptualise their members and
older people in general, and the discursive practices which surround the issues of oldagepolicy and representation.
One of the greatest achievements of the twentieth century has been the extension of
the human lifespan. It remains to be seen how the consequences of this achievement
will be harnessed during the twenty-first century. The findings
ideological debate also centres on the notion of representation. The focus of this
chapter is policy actors’ interpretations and constructions of older people’s interest
organisations and the relationship these constructions have with organisations’
involvement in age-based social policy development. It reflects the analysis of semistructured qualitative interviews with twenty civil/public servants working in the
area of oldagepolicy and five former Junior Ministers of State for Older People.
The construction of older people’s interest organisations