Swiss Retirees As “Active Agers”: A Critical Look at This New Social Role

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Toni CALASANTI, Virginia Tech, USA
Marion REPETTI, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Nationalized retirement began in Switzerland as a response to economic crisis and unemployment in the 1930s, and the content of this role reflected this context. Over time, changes in this role have occurred in relation to economic and demographic shifts, especially since the late 1970s.  Similar to other countries in the European Union, contemporary Switzerland faces concerns about an ageing population, and the policy framework of active ageing is one response. Today’s retirees are asked to actively participate in society in ways that are recognized as social contributions. We argue, however, that the redefinition of the role of retiree to be an “active ager” rests upon age and gender inequalities, among others. We argue that if these inequalities are not challenged, this well-intentioned framework can reinforce both the construction of dependence in later life and the exploitation of elders, especially old women. To illustrate our argument, we draw both on national data on gender, age, and unpaid work and on interviews conducted among Swiss retirees to demonstrate the ways that active aging can reinforce both ageism and gender inequalities in late life.