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Researching Old Age


Fri 28. 8.  14:00 - 15:30
room FA 204

Life course models: From deconstruction to diversity


Komp, Kathrin
Helsinki University, Finland

Models are of central importance for the social sciences, because they facilitate the understanding of social realities and they simplify discussions. Life course models can help us to better understand the progression of lives, life situations, and social change during the process of population ageing. Currently, the tripartite life course model is predominantly used. This model splits life into the life phases of youth, middle age, and old age. These life phases are equivalents to the years before, during, and after workforce participation. However, the tripartite model is criticized on many grounds, for example because it neglects the structuring effects of informal care-giving, heterogeneity in old age, and gradual transitions in and out of work. Consequently, researchers deconstructed the tripartite model and they made several suggestions on how this model could best be updated. This presentation furthers the discussion on life-course models by suggesting the use of several instead of just one model depicting life-courses in modern Western societies. Moreover, it makes suggestions on which combination of models would be both, parsimonious and accurate. The analyses examine cross-sectional and longitudinal data from across Europe, using the “Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe” and the “European Social Survey”. Findings enhance discussions in ageing and life-course research. Additionally, they help us to better capture social inequalities and social change.