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Ageing & Lifestyles Transformations in the Mediterranean: Data & Issues in the SSCC

Mar 21

The general theme of this multidisciplinary international symposium (involving anthropologists, demographers, geographers, historians, sociologists and statisticians) focusses on the way life cycles and lifestyles are changing in societies with ageing populations. A number of events are planned to coordinate progress in the debate in this field: 3 Conferences and 4 round tables (details in the programme) in addition to an official presentation by the Observatoire Démographique de la Méditerranée (Mediterranean Demographic Observatory).

Ageing is often described as an inevitable process related to the "universal" demographic transition experienced by every society in the world. But beyond similarities in the phenomena of birth and death, an examination of the situation regarding ageing from the start of the 21st century throws light on an increasingly complex phenomenon that varies across different nations and calls into question the “theory” of demographic transition. As a social process, the ageing of a population has a particular effect on the age structure of men and women due to increased life expectancy, and more profoundly the balance and the dynamics of exchange between existing generations. In the culturally diverse societies of southern Europe and the Mediterranean rim, which are in close geographical proximity to each other but whose political systems are historically quite distinct, one of the fundamental issues of ageing is the relationship between the effects of public policies and the way individuals behave in their private lives. What is generally referred to as “crisis” – a widely-used term in reference to macroeconomic imbalances, the globalisation of trade and power struggles between employment systems – manifests as a loss of control over the path one’s life takes, which has consequences for ageing that we are so far largely ignorant of. Suffice it to say that in trying to understand the evolution of human life, it is difficult to unravel the direct and indirect effects that economic contexts have on ageing and on the sociocultural tendencies inherent to a society and its specific characteristics.

Changes to life cycles also modify the structure of families, the place and status that each generation occupies and the function they perform, within an unprecedented situation for many societies, both northern and southern, where increased life expectancy favours the co-existence of different generations. Most of the latest surveys have assessed the extent of family ties between generations. The strength of these ties, which was previously underestimated or even unknown, gives an idea of their particular features and limitations compared to the plethora of social policy interventions or institutional support systems, where these exist, and allows us to modify fairly radically the prevailing ideology of personalising family ties. Ageing of the population entails an increase in the range of family support activities (care, mutual assistance, etc.) for women, and has a negative effect on the equality of gender roles in society. Women continue to bear most of the burden of care for dependent older people since they form the vast majority of caregivers (spouses, daughters, daughters-in-law, etc.), and, if working, are more likely to take time off or adjust their work schedule make themselves available. This highlights the extent to which private life and professional life revolve around the "support" activities (for children and the elderly) that make them possible. It tacitly questions the role that public policies play in nation states, which divides opinion between the official egalitarian logic of reducing gender inequality and a more subtle and solicitous “differentialist” or positive discrimination logic of preserving the status quo of gender identity in society.


Chief scientist

Thierry Blöss (LEST)


Organising committee

Isabelle Blöss-Widmer (LAMES), Sébastien Oliveau (ESPACE), Yoann Doignon (ESPACE, LAMES),

Carole Vitali (UFR ALLSH), Nathalie Besset (LEST), Marion Favre (LEST)

Marielle Fiumara (MMSH), Sylvie Laurens (MMSH), Elie Perrichon (LEST)


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Event information
21/03/2017 - 22/03/2017
Maison méditerranéenne des sciences de l'homme