For the first time in history, the world's population is ageing. For rich countries in the west, economies rely on youthful populations to provide for those who have retired. We face a profound economic and social crisis - how do we care for the elderly when pensions and social security systems are under threat, housing is short and fewer young people are entering the workplace?
Yet this is only half the story. Populations in the poorer countries of the South are also ageing. Life-expectancy has increased due the availability of lifesaving medicine. Child mortality has decreased, so people are having smaller families. India will soon have one of the largest populations of over-sixties. The one-child policy in China will similarly lead to a severe imbalance in the age-profile of the people.
In A World Grown Old, Jeremy Seabrook examines the real implications of the ageing phenomenon and challenges our preconceptions about how it should be tackled. Arguing that the accumulated skills of the elderly should be employed to enrich society, rather than being perceived as a 'burden', he calls for a radical rethinking of our attitude to population issues, migration, social structures and employment policy.
Jeremy Seabrook is a journalist and writer. He has written for the New Statesman, Guardian, Times and Independent. He writes plays for stage and TV and is the author of numerous books including Pauperland (Hurst, 2013), The Song of the Shirt (Hurst, 2015) and Cut Out (Pluto, 2016).
Introduction - The ageing population of the world: demographic time-bomb or unique opportunity? 1. Ageing and the role of the elderly in the changing cultures of the world 2. Work and the elderly, in the West and the South 3. Themes and issues (i) Widowhood (ii) Witchcraft (iii) Remembering (iv) ...and forgetting (v) Sex in old age (vi) Ageing and sexual minorities (vii) Stranded in a world moving on (viii) Poverty in old age (ix) Old age in traumatised societies - war and natural catastrophe 4. North and South - sefety nets: the social security of flesh and blood and the social security of financial support. The elderly in individual countries, including USA, China, Vietnam, South Africa 5. Active Ageing; testimonies of the elderly 6. Self-Help, Mutual Help