Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS


RE-AGEING Berichtzusammenfassung

Project ID: 323947
Gefördert unter: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Land: Austria

Mid-Term Report Summary - RE-AGEING (Reassessing Ageing from a Population Perspective)

Life expectancies and health level in developed and many developing countries have increased significantly over the past decades and are expected to continue increasing. In contrast to these profound changes, the concepts that demographers have used to analyze aging on a population level have remained largely static. The substantial changes in life expectancy and health status have rendered these traditional demographic measures inadequate for the analysis of aging at the population level in the 21st century. A better understanding of age and aging, for both science and policy, requires new approaches. This project comprehensively reassess population aging based on innovative alternative definitions and measures of age and aging that are being developed within the project.
We developed a new paradigm in conceptualizing population aging: the Characteristics Approach to the measurement of population aging. The essence of the approach is the consistent use of the characteristics of people, which normally vary in time and space. At any given chronological age, the remaining life expectancy, health and morbidity, disability rates, cognitive functioning and many other characteristics of people are very different today from what they were 50 years ago or from what they are going to be 50 years from now. At each chronological age these characteristics are different in different regions of the world.
The Characteristics Approach allows the translation of many characteristics into characteristic-based ages, called alpha-ages. The Characteristics Approach includes chronological age as a special case of alpha-ages and conventional measures of population aging based on them as special cases as well. But the Characteristics Approach is far more general. A number of studies have focused on life table characteristics. Remaining life expectancy has been used for producing a new forward-looking definition of age, call prospective age. Prospective age has been used to produce new “old age” thresholds, new proportions of the population who are “old”, new old age dependency ratios, and new median ages. Short-period mortality rates are a rough but easily measurable health indicator. Alpha-ages based on those mortality rates have been used to assess the proportions of populations whose health are worse than some level. The proportion of adult person-years lived after a particular age has been used to construct a simple hypothetical demographically indexed normal public pension system, which was intergenerationally equitable. New studies of labor force participation are now incorporating measures of life expectancy and health, and are utilizing the new intergenerationally equitable pension ages.
The issue of pension age was also studied in the analysis of a tradeoff between increasing normal pension ages and increasing labor force participation rates. We showed that, in most European countries, a difference in policies that results in an increase in average labor force participation rates by an additional one to two percentage points by 2050 can substitute for a one-year increase in the normal pension age.
The new approach to measuring age and aging has strong implications both for research and policy. We showed that conventional dependency ratios and their counterparts are often misleading in representing any type of dependency, whether it is financial, economic, health cost or old age dependency. We show that there are readily available new measures that are more accurate in representing correspondent dependency. In particular we have shown that, as a measure of aging, old age-dependency ratios (OADR) should be replaced by Prospective Old –Age dependency ratios (POADR) where the threshold of being considered old is changing with changing life expectancy.
Using UN population projections we showed consequential differences in the forecasted speed and level of aging when using conventional measure of aging and newly developed ones that take into account the changing characteristics of people. Moreover, counterintuitively, the Characteristics Approach shows that the faster the projected increase in life expectancy the lower the projected speed of aging. Using traditional measures of aging a reverse relationship between the speed of life expectancy increase and the speed of aging is observed.
A very important feature and strength of the developed approach is conversion of any characteristics to the age metric. We applied the Characteristics Approach to define a speed of aging in different population subgroups, for example educational subgroups, where different biomarkers, such as cognitive tests, and physical measures are used as characteristics. Translating levels of characteristics into the metric of age allows comparisons of aging based on very different indicators in a standard way. Moreover we show that developing an aggregate index of aging becomes much simpler task, since each characteristic is converted to the same age metric. An interesting example of this is the transformation of responses to questions on the likelihood of surviving to different ages into alpha-ages. Because these alpha-ages reflect people’s subjective beliefs about their longevity, they could be more informative about people’s forward-looking behaviors than chronological age.

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