Masaryk University, Czech Republic
People coming from, and living in family structures are, later in life, more likely to be exposed to several highly demanding roles, with fluctuating resources for their successful fulfilment. The demographically and fiscally driven economic situation requires them to stay in the labour market longer than previous generations, while new social norms push them to express their youthful “third age” Self, pursue their own pleasures, and be socially productive. Yet, at the same time, the pressure created by family obligations does not fade away but rather intensifies. This situation challenges the classical notion of a bell-shaped distribution of role overload (Lee 1988), which suggests that, as an individual moves through his life course, possibly conflicting roles pile up in the middle years, while the complexity and size of the role sets tend to decrease in later life. This opinion is in some ways congruent with disengagement theory (Cumming, Henry 1961), but does not take into account more recent challenges creating new role expectations and pressures for ageing people in post-modern (Katz 2000), age non-integrated (Loscocco 2000) societies. In this paper, we look specifically at the young-old cohorts (aged 50-70) and their social roles. On the basis of a representative survey carried out in 2014 in the Czech Republic, we show that people at this stage of life contend with, on average, seven key social roles, about half of such people experiencing intensive levels of stress and role overload. We discuss both the structural and familial backgrounds to these role sets and their relation to well being in general.