Demographic transition, particularly the very fast growing number of oldest old citizens is challenging the Nordic societies. Aging of society has attracted widespread attention and triggered debates on the financial sustainability of old age pensions, the threat of rising cost for health and care, changing intergenerational relations etc. The Nordic welfare societies are not only institutional arrangements for social security and health systems, they also rely on values such as social solidarity, equality, individual autonomy and well-being. In other words, Nordic societies have social responsibility also for this fast-growing group of older citizens, for their wellbeing, health, and inclusion into society.
In order to achieve this goal, we need to develop a deeper and more advanced understanding of what constitutes quality of life for the oldest old. Aging is not an external shock in the sense that it comes as a surprise. Demographic forecasting is well-established. The life sciences have studied the biological and physical processes of aging. Social sciences and humanities have studied the societal and cultural consequences of and individual responses to aging. However, it is not given that existing knowledge and conceptualizations of health and well-being can easily be extended to also cover the groups of very old citizens. The goal of our project is to facilitate new cross-disciplinary research on health and wellbeing in the 4th Age (90+) in the Nordic countries.
We will develop a more comprehensive (holistic) understanding and more advanced measurement of health, well-being and inequality for the growing number of very old. Key aspects of the project will include: combing quantitative and qualitative studies of health, well-being and inequality; critically testing existing conceptualizations of health, well-being and inequality; and including an ‘end-of-life’ perspective rather than exclusively focusing on a ‘long-life’ perspective. We will develop an innovative approach to conceptualizing health and wellbeing of the 90+, and provide knowledge-based policy advice for better inclusion of this fast-growing group of citizens.