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2018 Conference Presentation

Informal care SpainSweden

10 September 2018

Older people: a neglected but growing resource

Gerdt Sundström, Jönköping University, Sweden



Objective: To remind the general public and experts that older people are themselves a significant resource, for the sustainability of LTC, and in other ways. We show that top-down perspectives and conventional forecasts neglect that older persons often are producers of care, not just consumers. Older persons are mostly an unnoticed resource in society, in the labour market, for their families, and for the larger community.

Data & methods: We use data from surveys and official statistics in Spain, Sweden and from Eurostat for recent decades to show main trends in older persons’ contributions. We scrutinize the divergence between simplified macro indicators (dependency ratios, caregiver support ratios) and micro facts about older persons, their family ties and participation in the labour market.

Results: Older people are increasingly active in the labour market in Spain and in Sweden. In both countries many older persons take care of grandchildren and in several other ways provide for off-spring. In both Spain and Sweden older people provide a large share of all informal caregiving, in Sweden about half. Older men do this more than in past and gender roles are getting equalized. Many older volunteers provide important services to both younger and older persons in need, frequently tasks that the state can’t supply.

Conclusions: Older persons are important contributors to society, both their more visible presence in the labour market, and largely “invisible” provisions to their families and civil society at large. This goes unnoticed as these contributions seem to have no immediate monetary value. Attempts to assess their monetary value are in a way dubious, but illustrate the enormous scale of what older persons do, contrary to common stereotypes of older persons as mainly consumers.

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