Life Cycle Transitions and Vulnerabilities in Old Age: A Review

Zaidi Paper
By Zaidi, Asghar

This paper reviews the concepts of vulnerability and resilience, and their applications for ageing and older people through literature in this area. Concurrently, it reviews the life course framework and the capability approach, and their relevance to human development. Current literature offers great insights on novel approaches to conceptualizing the quality of life and well-being of older people, as well as information on distinctive analytical tools (such as the Active Ageing Index and the Global AgeWatch Index) that help measure and monitor varying outcomes across different policy contexts. The paper demonstrates how policy interventions throughout the life course must aim to not just reduce vulnerabilities to risks but also boost the personal coping capacities (or resilience) of people moving into old age. These interventions are most effective when accompanied by active, health-enhancing behaviour by individuals, by a reduction in the socio-cultural constraints faced by older people, as well as by enabling, age friendly environments. The paper points to the long-term impact of transitions (such as the onset of disability or the death of spouse) and life course experiences (such as work and family history) on three key components of the quality of life and well-being of older persons: financial well-being, health, and social support and connectedness. The discussion extends to how contextual and temporal factors contribute to inequalities and vulnerabilities in old age, with an emphasis on identifying the role of gender disparities and institutional differences across countries. A review of evidence generated by the Global AgeWatch Index helps identify contexts in which older people fare better. It points to policy interventions effective in ameliorating vulnerabilities among current and future generations of older persons.