Quality of Life of the Over-60s in Europe: A Gender Perspective

Article excerpt

* How does Living Alone or with a Partner Influence Life Satisfaction among Older Men and Women in Europe?

* Gender Differences in Care Home Use among Older Finns and Belgians

* Norms of Filial Obligation in the Netherlands

* Gender Equality in Pensions: What Role for Rights Accrued as a Spouse or a Parent?

* The Treatment of Couples by the Pension System: Survivor's Pensions and Pension Splitting

Launched in the second half of the 2000s, the MAGGIE project (Major Ageing and Gender Issues in Europe) aims to compare the quality of life of older adults aged 60 and over in the different countries of Europe. As shown by all studies of the elder population, gender is a major discriminating factor. Gender inequalities in old age develop throughout the life course in response to the specific sociocultural context of each country.

Ten teams, coordinated by INED (lead researcher: Joëlle Gaymu) have contributed to the project, which was funded by the Research Directorate- General of the European Commission: (1)

* Dipartimento di Statistica "Giuseppe Parenti" of the University of Florence (Italy, Gustavo De Santis),

* Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas of the New University of Lisbon (Portugal, Ana Fernandez),

* Fondation nationale de gérontologie (France, Christiane Delbès),

* Groupe d'étude de démographie appliquée of the Université catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium, Michel Poulain),

* Helsingin yliopisto (Finland, Pekka Martikainen),

* London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (United Kingdom, Emily Grundy),

* Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographics Institute, of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (Netherlands, Tineke Fokkema),

* Népességtudományi Kutatóintézet of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (Szolt Speder),

* Rostocker Zentrum zur Erforschung der Ursachen und Konsequenzen des Demografischen Wandels (Germany, Gabriele Doblhammer).

The research teams studied the discriminatory factors which act throughout the lifecourse, leading to gender differentials in quality of life in old age. They also considered the differing capacity of individuals to adapt to the main events affecting their lives after age 60 (retirement, widowhood, declining health, institutionalization) and the roles that older adults are expected to play at these ages. For example, women are generally the mainstay of family solidarity, while men continue to be the primary income providers, even though both sexes are economically inactive at these ages.

Four main research themes, essential for the quality of life of older adults, were analysed: mortality and health; family situation and social integration; socioeconomic status; and institutionalization. Special attention was paid to the indicators for measuring quality of life, with the parallel use of both objective and subjective indicators wherever possible. The five articles in this thematic feature give some examples of the wide-ranging project findings.

Based on the observation that in a dozen European countries, women aged over 60, whether living alone or with a partner, less frequently report being satisfied with their life than men of the same age, Joëlle GAYMU and Sabine SPRINGER observe their objective living conditions (family, health and economic situation). …