Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Ageing, a key issue in political and academic debate - issue#1

How does the increasing number of co-existing generations impact on our society?


by Prof. Fausto Colombo

The inaugural issue of UCloud – Connecting Knowledge is devoted to ageing. This topic is presented in a multidisciplinary perspective through diverse research projects that involved different research teams at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and featured the collaboration of renowned international scholars.

Ageing in western society has become a key issue in political and academic debate: politicians, sociologists, doctors, demographers, psychologists, economists are trying to understand how ageing will impact our future society.
In the last century, lifespan increased by more than thirty years: the time of a generation. Thus, three traditional stages of life are now becoming four different ages: childhood/youth, adulthood, the young elderly and the elderly. Boundaries between these four ages blur into each other, for each of the age. However, the Third Age can be confined to the population at the end of career or retired, having children and also grandchildren and - in some cases increasing over time - having at least one living parent. The increasing number of coexisting generations also means ever more complex family and generational relationships.

A broad philosophical and anthropological debate regarding the relevance of this new age has started to develop.

The importance given to this age of life depends mainly on its demographics: this Third Age has a significant demographic and social weight. Its demographic weight is very well expressed by the two following tables, which show the increasing percentage of the Third Age in Europe, and the corresponding increase of old age dependency ratio, i.e. the specific demo-graphic weight of the elderly (over 65-year old) over the whole active population (aged 14 years and over).

Data confirm in a striking manner the gradual aging of European population. Demographic data needs to be integrated with other equally interesting data related to the social relevance of the elderly: according to some surveys, there is an ever closer correlation between economic wealth and aging, so as to assume a correlation between economic divides and generational divides in the near future.

The first issue of UCloud – Connecting Knowledge was presented on 11th December 2014 at the European Parliament in the frame of an open debate.

In the next months (and years) Ucloud will address new socially and economically relevant issues, always with the aim to foster dialogue between science, research and policy making. Stay tuned and good reading.