building a society for all ages

Second World Assembly on Ageing Madrid, Spain 8 -12 April 2002

Social research takes on challenges
of population ageing

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) carries out multidisciplinary research on the social dimensions of modern problems that affect development. According to the Institute, population ageing is both part of and influenced by the wider processes of development and transformation. The well-being and quality of life of older persons depend largely on their ability to manage opportunities and risks in a time of rapid and complex change. Both formal and informal social protection can play important roles.

To contribute to the United Nations Second World Assembly on Ageing, the Institute is organizing a conference - Ageing, Development and Social Protection - as a parallel event in Madrid. On 9 and 10 April 2002, 12 internationally known social scientists and gerontologists from various regions of the world will present papers and lead discussions on key issues and challenges.

The event will provide participants with additional knowledge on the current state of academic research on ageing and development and will frame a discussion on core issues as they affect different social groups (including the non-elderly) in different
countries and regions and in different environments of development, change and crisis.

Participants will examine the problems and opportunities of social protection for older people, including formal public policies and strategies derived from informal institutions, such as household support systems.

The conference will focus on four related themes:

· Ageing and development will examine the relationships between modernization and the well-being of older people, by looking at long-term changes in the status of elders in both developed and developing countries.

· Ageing in contexts of crisis will explore the challenges of population ageing in contexts of transition. It will also examine the vulnerability of older people to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is having a greater impact on older persons than might have been supposed.

· Public policy and formal social protection will consider the scope for innovative approaches to public policy for older persons, which may go beyond providing pensions and health care. This includes education programmes, providing training and access to credit, and policies designed to encourage older persons to participate politically.

· Care, inter-generational exchange and informal social protection will look at long-term care for vulnerable older persons, with a particular emphasis on the plight of elderly women. It will also examine the divisions between formal social protection and informal means of support.

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development was created in 1963, "to conduct research into problems and policies of social development and relationships between various types of social development and economic development during different phases of economic growth." It was also asked to carry out research and studies that are useful to the work of the United Nations.

This article was based on information provided by UNRISD.

Further information on the Conference is available on the UNRISD web site (, or by contacting:

Caroline Danloy
Project Research Assistant
Or, for general queries:
Nicolas Bovay
Information Office

For media queries, please contact
United Nations Department of Public Information
Tel: (1-212) 963-0499

Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information DPI/2264 March 2002

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