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Introducing ageing
Introducing ageing

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Introducing ageing


Have you ever thought about how long you might live? In the UK and in many other parts of the world, most people can expect to live longer than their parents and grandparents did. A baby born in 2011 is almost eight times more likely to live to be 100 than one born in 1931 (Department of Work and Pensions, 2011). The World Health Organization estimates that globally the proportion of people aged over 60 will double from 11% in 2000 to 22% in 2050 (WHO, 2012). These big changes can have really significant effects on individuals and on society more widely.

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Figure 1

You may have seen headlines and comments like these yourself. But is this really the whole story? Do older people necessarily make greater demands on health care services? Shouldn’t we be celebrating the fact that most people are living longer? What about the quality of life people experience during these additional years? Isn’t it ageist to categorise all older people as nothing but drains on society? What about the contributions older people make to society? Asking lots of questions about something that is often taken for granted is an important part of what it means to approach a topic in an academic way. This course will help you to explore the topic of ageing in this way.

Core questions

  • How is growing older in the 21st century different from growing older in the past?
  • What is meant by ‘the Third Age’?
  • What is meant by ‘the Fourth Age’?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of categorising older people in this way?
  • How have your own experiences of ageing so far influenced the way you approach this topic?

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course K118 Perspectives in Health and Social Care [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .