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The University of Southampton
Centre for Research on Ageing

Expertise

Research at the Centre for Research on Ageing combines qualitative and quantitative approaches, is inter-disciplinary and international in scope, and has a strong policy focus. Our main areas of expertise include the following:

Research themes

Ageing in developing and transitional societies

Diversity in later life and ethnic minority ageing

Gender and pension reform

Income, pensions and inequality

Health and social care

Paid work and informal caring

Retirement prospects of future generations of elders

Social networks and informal support

Ageing in developing and transitional societies

The majority of the world’s elderly population live in developing countries, and ageing is currently proceeding most rapidly in the Global South. Research in this area examines the particular challenges raised by accelerated ageing in settings where formal welfare provision and service infrastructure are rudimentary, poverty widespread, and governance weak or in a state of flux. It investigates the interaction of informal and formal welfare provision, the role of the family, kin and civil society institutions, material insecurity, vulnerability, social policy, and the role of older people as carers, for examples in situations of widespread HIV-AIDS or migration. Current regions of specialisation include Southeast Asia, Sub-saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Diversity in later life and ethnic minority ageing

The experience of ageing, and its implications for an individual's resources over their life course, differs according to a person's demographic and socio-economic characteristics. Our research in this area focuses on the health, living arrangements, housing, financial resources and social support of black and minority ethnic elders in Britain, and the construction and analysis of a large-scale survey database, the GHS Ethnicity Multi-year Database. It also includes the study of the experience of ageing in world cities such as London, Paris, New York and Tokyo, investigating different dimensions of inequalities, including ethnicity, poverty and social deprivation.

Gender and pension reform

Pension provision and pension reform has particular gender implications, as a result of men's and women's diverse life courses. In this area, we explore the gender implications of pension reform in the developed world, and we empirically investigate the pension penalty of providing informal care (child and elder) over the life-course and the implications for policy reform.

Income, pensions and inequality

Research in this area investigates how income (dis)advantage accumulates over older peoples’ lifetimes and often intensifies in later life, and the role that the welfare state has played in reducing or perpetuating such inequalities. The research uses a comparative framework focussing on the UK, Germany, Sweden and the US. It examines pensions amongst groups with interrupted work histories, such as the unemployed and those with child or elder care responsibilities, and saving amongst youth in the UK.

Health and social care

The provision of health and social care is a key indicator of how well policy-makers and societies respond to the challenges posed by population ageing. Our research in this area examines health, disability and access to health care services and social services; equity in health and social care, taking into account both demand and supply factors in the investigation of inequalities in the utilisation of health and social care services; equity in access to welfare services and how policy may serve to mitigate or perpetuate inequalities. In addition, our research explores the mental health of older people, for example in relation to dementia, and service evaluations. Finally, we focus on the design, funding and provision of culturally sensitive and culturally specific services in both health and social care.

Paid work and informal caring

This research area looks at the complex relationship between health, caring and employment. It examines the characteristics and challenges faced by those ‘caught in the middle’, who juggle paid work and caring responsibilities, whilst still supporting their own children. Our research is aimed at understanding changes over time and across generations in the social and economic roles across which individuals take up. The research also investigates the relationship between multiple role responsibilities and quality of life indicators such as health, material resources and engagement in social activities. Some of the work in this area overlaps with research on ageing in developing and transitional societies.

Retirement prospects of future generations of elders

Research in this area investigates the retirement prospects of future cohorts; examines the social and economic circumstances of the ageing baby boomer generations in Britain; and the development and use of dynamic population simulation models in order to project the financial, health and social needs of the British population to 2050 and to evaluate different policy scenarios.

Social networks and informal support

Informal support remains central to understanding older people's well-being in developed and developing countries, and has particular significance during times of economic crisis. Research in this area examines the complex division of labour in old-age support provision between individuals and their families, wider kin, friends and neighbours, and community and civil society institutions. It investigates the evolution of social networks over the lifecourse, older people’s contributions to networks, vulnerabilities inherent in childlessness, and the impact of migration and transnationalism on local support networks. It also examines the predictive factors of informal support, including gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity and family composition. The research has a strong inter-ethnic and international comparative dimension.

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