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FP6

MAGGIE — Result In Brief

Project ID: 28571
Funded under: FP6-CITIZENS
Country: France

Contented old age for Europeans?

Quality of life in older age is affected by a variety of factors related to our personal and professional lives. A team of researchers delved deeper into this topic, adding the gender factor to the mix.
Contented old age for Europeans?
The 'Major ageing and gender issues in Europe' (Maggie) project analysed quality-of-life indicators among the population aged over 60. The EU-funded project aimed to reveal gender gaps and influencing factors to produce information that can be used to inform policy development and highlight the most vulnerable groups. Working on the premise that gender gaps in quality of life are shaped by the sociocultural context, national and EU policies are recognised as playing a major role; the gender of ageing Europeans has large implications for policy.

Ten research teams across Europe analysed various indicators of quality of life among the target population, with main sources of data used being the 'Survey of health, ageing and retirement in Europe' (SHARE) and the 'Gender and generation survey' (GGS). These were supplemented by data from the European Community Household Panel (ECHP) and the Fifth Framework Programme's (FP5's) 'Future elderly living conditions in Europe' (FELICIE).

Although their impact differs between the two genders and varies according to living arrangements and societal and political context, quality of life is influenced by factors related to health conditions, financial security, family situation and social integration. Study findings showed that good family integration, good finances and good health positively influence the well-being of all older people.

Researchers found that for women, life satisfaction is positively linked with home ownership, leisure activities and quality of nearby transport and facilities, while for men, children play a more influential role. The latter trend could be interpreted as a wish to make up for lost time; the traditional division of labour tasks generally resulted in women as homemakers and men as the main or only breadwinners.

Maggie identified three broad distinctions across EU nations. Older people in German-speaking countries are more financially secure on the whole, but have a wider gender gap. In northern and western Europe, seniors were discovered to be more oriented towards friends and leisure activities, while in southern Europe they enjoy better health and are more family centred. Several subpopulations were also identified as being at a risk of low quality of life; these cases call for special attention from policymakers. They include those in poor health, those without children in central Europe, northern European women in unstable financial situations and southern European women with less frequent family contact.

The issues are likely to change for subsequent generations of older people, given that male and female models may well converge over time due to the increased participation of women in the labour market. As such, Maggie's efforts make an important contribution to discussions of how the interaction of policies — on pensions, social security and health — stands to influence gender differences in quality of life.

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