Beyond borders: exploring ageing in a global context

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Martin Hyde University of Leicester, UK

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It is with great pleasure and no small sense of relief that I sit down to write this editorial piece, on behalf of the whole editorial team, for the first issue of the Journal of Global Ageing (JoGA).

We had three interlinked motivations for setting up JoGA: to understand the global processes of ageing and provide a forum which represents the global nature of population ageing – in particular we are keen to encourage submissions relating to those countries and regions that are currently under-represented in our field; to invite authors to move beyond the methodological nationalism that dominates much of social gerontology and consider a range of different (social, material and environmental) geographies of ageing and later life; and to develop a more compassionate, supportive experience for all involved in the publication process in this field.

We are all aware that global demography is changing. Ageing societies were once exclusively situated in high-income countries and, with the exception of Japan, located in Europe and North America. Today, countries in the so-called ‘Global South’ (see Kowalski, 2021, for definition of Global North and Global South) are experiencing rapid population ageing and are expected to account for 80 per cent of the world’s older people by 2050. Alongside this demographic change, there are a number of social, technological and environmental changes that are having an impact on older adults around the world. Despite this, our current understanding of ageing is dominated by research that comes from countries in the so-called ‘Global North’. As the results of some, albeit relatively crude, analysis of data from Web of Science show, articles from the US dominate the gerontological literature (Figure 1). In the past five years, 37 per cent of all gerontology journal articles originated in the US. Aside from this, we can see that in the top 15 countries where gerontology articles originated, there were only 6 outside Europe and North America and only 3 outside the high-income countries in what is considered to be the Global North. Articles from high-income countries comprised 80 per cent of all gerontology articles, and articles from North America and Europe comprised 69 per cent. However, as Table 1 shows, high-income countries and countries in North America plus Europe and Central Asia have only around 30 per cent of the world’s older population. Our goal is that JoGA will help to redress this imbalance and provide a forum for authors from around the world to publish their studies on ageing.

Table 1:

Global population aged 65 and over by income level of country and by region

Percentage of global population aged 65 and over
Income level of country High income 30.71
Upper middle income 41.55
Lower middle income 24.57
Low income 2.86
Region East Asia and Pacific 39.54
Europe and Central Asia 20.38
Latin America and Caribbean 7.77
Middle East and North Africa 3.44
North America 8.27
South Asia 15.86
Sub-Saharan Africa 4.73
The treemap shows the number of articles published in gerontology journals by country. The results show that the vast majority of published articles come from high-income countries in North America and Europe.
Figure 1:

Number of articles published in gerontology journals from March 2019 to March 2024 in the 15 countries with the highest share of articles

Citation: Journal of Global Ageing 1, 1; 10.1332/29767202Y2024D000000009

One way in which we seek to do this is by having an editorial team that represents the international diversity of researchers on ageing. We are fortunate that we already have a very international editorial team, with members from 16 different countries spanning five continents, who bring a wealth of global connections. Moreover, as part of the editorial team, we currently have regional liaison editors for Central and South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, North America, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and East Asia and Pacific, whose role is to develop connections with and support submissions from authors in those regions. However, we recognise that there is more work to do to widen the geographical representation of the editorial college. This will be an ongoing process throughout the life of the journal, and we hope that as the journal grows and attracts high-quality articles from a wider range of countries, we will be able to attract more and more people to the team.

We see our mission to encourage and support submissions on ageing from and about a wider, more diverse range of countries and regions as incredibly important. However, we want to go beyond this and invite authors to critically consider the geographies of ageing that we use when conducting our research. There is a long-standing and growing interest in what has been called ‘geographical gerontology’ (Andrews et al, 2007; Andrews et al, 2017) or the ‘spatialities of ageing’ (Schwanen et al, 2012). However, the places in which we age have become increasingly complex and are undergoing a series of changes.

Throughout the 1990s and the early part of the 2000s, there was growing interest in how globalisation might affect the lives of older adults. As Phillipson (2003) notes:

Globalisation undoubtedly adds a further dimension to the nature of such risks [related to older people’s identity in late modernity] and the different way in which they are expressed throughout the life course. Exploring the lives of older people as active participants in this new global environment will be a major challenge for critical gerontology in the twenty-first century.

Drawing on Scholte’s (2005: 7) definition of globalisation as a ‘reconfiguration of social geography’ and Appadurai’s (1996: 32) conceptual model of globalisation ‘as a complex, overlapping, disjunctive order’ made up of five different ‘scapes’, Hyde and Higgs (2016) analysed the extent to which globalisation impacts on ageing and later life. While ultimately they conclude that ‘there is little evidence for a global time-space of ageing and later life’, they observe that ‘when we look at topics such as engagement with consumer culture or patterns of tourism we can see a relatively global landscape’ (Hyde and Higgs, 2016: 179). However, in the years since the book was published, the nature of globalisation has changed. The growth and spread in recent decades of a neoliberal form of globalisation appears to be slowing down or even reversing. Some have argued that we are entering a period of deglobalisation (Witt, 2019), while others believe we are shifting to a new, ‘inclusive’ form of state-led globalisation, exemplified by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (Liu and Dunford, 2016; Li and Taube, 2018; Liu et al, 2018). At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic and the deepening climate crisis demonstrate the continued global interconnectivity and related challenges that we face. At JoGA, we are particularly keen to receive submissions that explore the ways in which processes of deglobalisation and (re)globalisation (Madhok, 2021) might interact to impact on ageing and later life.

In concert with these global transformations, the nature and fate of the world’s economic and political regions, which seemed so solid, are changing. Where research on the role of regional actors on the lives of older adults has been done, it has mainly focused on the European Union (EU; see, for example, Foster, 2012, and Walker and Maltby, 2012). This is to be expected, as the EU and its antecedents have been among the earliest forms of regional organisation and are generally the most developed. However, the world is made up of many different, often overlapping, regions. Some of these are, like the EU, large supra-state multinational organisations, which can be found all across the world. These include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Eurasian Economic Union and the African Union. Alternatively, regions can be cultural, economic, linguistic and/or geographic. Some of these sit wholly within national states, while others cross borders – for example, linguistic, cultural and/or ethnic communities across multiple countries. What is interesting from a gerontological perspective is that many of these regions are now experiencing relatively rapid population ageing. For example, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over in the ASEAN region grew from 5.3 percent in 2000 to 7.5 percent in 2022 (ASEAN, 2023).

Moreover, this demographic change has been accompanied by social and cultural changes. Across East Asia, there has been a shift in peoples’ attitudes about the traditional role of families in providing financial security for older adults. Results from the East Asia Retirement Survey found that the majority of workers in these countries were in favour of the state taking a more active role in encouraging savings and providing economic support in later life (Jackson, 2014). We have seen similar shifts in the expectations and practices of family-based caregiving for and by older adults in India (Ugargol et al, 2022). In response, a report published by ASEAN and the International Labour Organization (ILO) recommends that ASEAN nations should work to harmonise retirement age and pension indexation in order to overcome the challenge that the region is ‘ageing before being rich’ (Scholz and Cunha, 2020: 41). Hence, it is clear that regions play an active role in shaping the conditions of later life for many people (Hyde and Higgs, 2016). However, in line with increasing interest in relational geography, it has been argued that regions are inherently plastic, contested and performative (Jones, 2022). Hence, while for future issues of JoGA we would be very interested in articles that examine the approaches taken to population ageing by different regions, we are also keen to receive submissions that look at how population ageing and the policy responses to it contribute to the meaning and contours of these regions.

In the midst of all of this, the nation-state, once seen as ‘too small for the big problems of life, and too big for the small problem of life’ (Bell, 1987: 14, emphasis in original), is experiencing a resurgence. However, it is unlikely that we will see a return to the nation-state of old. As noted in the report published by ASEAN and the ILO, the idea of a ‘welfare state’ has become increasingly anachronistic. The report argues that that this has been replaced by the ‘social investment state’, in which social benefits are seen as investments in people in order to enhance economic growth and productivity (Scholz and Cunha, 2020: 41). What this and the increasingly populist politics that seem to accompany the reassertion of national sovereignty mean for older adults and later life are also important topics of research. Whatever form nation-states take, they will have to deal with the subnational regions and powerful global cities within their borders. This series of transformations poses challenges for gerontology as well as for older people themselves. Our hope is that JoGA will provide a forum for authors to critically discuss the impact of these changes on older people and the role that older people play in them.

Lastly, when setting up a new journal, it is impossible not to acknowledge the fact that academic publishing is going through some difficult times at the moment. We have seen a number of mass resignations from several journals, and there is growing dissatisfaction with the whole review process (Allen et al, 2022). A cursory look at social media reveals that many authors are frustrated by the length of time it takes to get a decision on their submission and by what they often perceive as unduly harsh and/or conflicting reviewer comments (Humphries, 2022). Reviewers are frustrated because the time and effort they put into their reviews goes largely unrecognised by their employer, and many no longer feel that they have the time to undertake this work. Editors are frustrated because it takes longer and longer to find reviewers and because there can be significant variability in the quality of reviews (Mrowinski et al, 2020; Tropini et al, 2023). While some of these issues are clearly beyond the scope of an individual journal, part of our mission at JoGA is to try to improve the publication experience for all parties involved. One way in which we have sought to do this is by establishing an editorial college of peer reviewers to review submissions. This system (or one similar) is used by other journals – the International Journal of Social Research Methodology, for example. The college system significantly reduces the time it takes to find reviewers and ensures a higher and more consistent quality of reviews, all of which benefits authors, reviewers and editors. We are also keen to ensure that JoGA contributes to capacity building within our field wherever possible. For example, we are currently in discussion with the British Society of Gerontology and their Emerging Researchers in Ageing to appoint an early career researcher representative to the editorial board.

Given the ambitious goals we have set ourselves for the journal, it is absolutely fantastic that for our first issue we have eight excellent articles that exemplify what we are trying to achieve with JoGA. We have a truly global spread of articles, with studies covering countries from Uganda to the US, and a fascinating variety of topics, covering sexual activity in later life, the use of IT by older adults during the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact of transport policies on age-friendly infrastructure, quality of life among an older migrant group and age reporting by and for older people. We have two thought-provoking articles which in different but complementary ways take a critical look at how ageing policies and research funding produce certain types of knowledge about ageing and later life. Lastly, we are very excited to publish a big theory article which takes a somewhat different approach to the question of how globalisation might impact older adults, by critically assessing the utility of Ulrich Beck’s (2006) concept of cosmopolitanisation for understanding the contemporary condition of later life. As a newly established journal, we are so fortunate to be able to publish such high-quality articles covering such a varied conceptual and geographic range. We hope that you enjoy reading them as much as we have and that this encourages you to consider submitting your future articles to us and suggesting others do so too.

Funding

The author received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Acknowledgements

It is important to say a huge thank you to the authors for submitting such excellent articles and responding in such a timely and positive way to the reviewers’ comments, to everyone on the editorial team for their work in promoting the journal and providing reviews when asked to do so, and to the team at Policy Press for their support and guidance throughout. We would also like to thank the nine anonymous reviewers of our proposal for their supportive and thoughtful suggestions. Lastly, a special thanks goes out to Prof Tom Scharf, Prof Carol Holland, Dr Wendy Martin and Julia Mortimer for arranging the agreement between the British Society of Gerontology and Policy Press to support the journal. The level of support for this new journal has been extremely gratifying and humbling. We hope that this first issue, and the many more to come, justifies your support and meets your expectations.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

References

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    • Search Google Scholar
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    • Search Google Scholar
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  • Walker, A. and Maltby, T. (2012) Active ageing: a strategic policy solution to demographic ageing in the European Union, International Journal of Social Welfare, 21(Suppl 1): S117130. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2397.2012.00871.x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Witt, M.A. (2019) De-globalization: theories, predictions, and opportunities for international business research, Journal of International Business Studies, 50(7): 105377. doi: 10.1057/s41267-019-00219-7

    • Search Google Scholar
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  • World Bank Open Data (2024) Population ages 65 and above, total, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.65UP.TO?view=chart

  • Figure 1:

    Number of articles published in gerontology journals from March 2019 to March 2024 in the 15 countries with the highest share of articles

  • Allen, K., Reardon, J., Lu, Y., Smith, D.V., Rainsford, E. and Walsh, L. (2022) Towards improving peer review: crowd-sourced insights from Twitter, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 19(3). https://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol19/iss3/02

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Andrews, G.J., Cutchin, M., McCracken, K., Phillips, D.R. and Wiles, J. (2007) Geographical gerontology: the constitution of a discipline, Social Science & Medicine, 65(1): 15168. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.02.047

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Andrews, G.J., Cutchin, M.P. and Skinner, M.W. (2017) Space and place in geographical gerontology: theoretical traditions, formations of hope, in M.W. Skinner, G.J. Andrews and M.P. Cutchin (eds) Geographical Gerontology: Perspectives, Concepts, Approaches, London: Routledge, pp 1128.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Appadurai, A. (1996) Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

  • ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) (2023) Ageing ASEAN: shifting demographic structure, ASEAN Statistical Brief, Volume III, www.aseanstats.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/ASB-202312-5.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Beck, U. (2006) The Cosmopolitan Vision, Cambridge: Polity Press.

  • Bell, D. (1987) The world and the United States in 2013, Daedalus, 116(3): 131.

  • Foster, L. (2012) Active ageing and pensions in the European Union, Journal of Comparative Social Welfare, 28(3): 22334. doi: 10.1080/17486831.2012.753022

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Humphries, M. (2022) Peer review is frustrating and flawed – here’s how we can fix it, Times Higher Education, 19 July, www.timeshighereducation.com/campus/peer-review-frustrating-and-flawed-heres-how-we-can-fix-it.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hyde, M. and Higgs, P. (2016) Ageing and Globalisation, Bristol: Policy Press.

  • Jackson, R. (2014) Attitudes towards the role of the family, the individual, and the state in providing retirement income: survey evidence from emerging East Asia, in N.B. Clements, F. Eich and S. Gupta (eds) Equitable and Sustainable Pensions: Challenges and Experience, Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, pp 11738.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jones, M. (2022) For a ‘new new regional geography’: plastic regions and more-than-relational regionality, Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 104(1): 4358. doi: 10.1080/04353684.2022.2028575

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kowalski, A.M. (2021) Global South-Global North differences, in W. Leal Filho, A.M. Azul, L. Brandli, A. Lange Salvia, P.G. Özuyar and T. Wall (eds) No Poverty, Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Cham: Springer, pp 389400.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Li, Y. and Taube, M. (2018) The implications of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ on globalization and inclusive growth for the Eurasian continent, Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, 16(3): 23340. doi: 10.1080/14765284.2018.1491667

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Liu, W. and Dunford, M. (2016) Inclusive globalization: unpacking China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Area Development and Policy, 1(3): 32340. doi: 10.1080/23792949.2016.1232598

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Liu, W., Dunford, M. and Gao, B. (2018) A discursive construction of the Belt and Road Initiative: from neo-liberal to inclusive globalization, Journal of Geographical Sciences, 28(9): 1199214. doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1520-y

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Madhok, A. (2021) Globalization, de-globalization, and re-globalization: some historical context and the impact of the COVID pandemic, BRQ Business Research Quarterly, 24(3): 199203. doi: 10.1177/23409444211008904

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mrowinski, M.J., Fronczak, A., Fronczak, P., Nedic, O. and Dekanski, A. (2020) The hurdles of academic publishing from the perspective of journal editors: a case study, Scientometrics, 125: 11533. doi: 10.1007/s11192-020-03619-x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Phillipson, C. (2003) Globalisation and the future of ageing: developing a critical gerontology, Sociological Research Online, 8(4), www.socresonline.org.uk/8/4/phillipson.html. doi: 10.5153/sro.868

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scholte, J.A. (2005) Globalization: A Critical Introduction, 2nd edn, Houndmills: Palgrave.

  • Scholz, W. and Cunha, N. (2020) Old-Age Income Security in ASEAN Member States: Policy Trends, Challenges and Opportunities, Jakarta: ASEAN and ILO.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schwanen, T., Hardill, I. and Lucas, S. (2012) Spatialities of ageing: the co-construction and co-evolution of old age and space, Geoforum, 43(6): 12915. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2012.07.002

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tropini, C., Finlay, B.B., Nichter, M., Melby, M.K., Metcalf, J.L., Dominguez-Bello, M.G. … and Gilbert, G.A. (2023) Time to rethink academic publishing: the peer reviewer crisis, Human Microbiome, 14(6): e0109123. doi: 10.1128/mbio.01091-23

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ugargol, A.P., Bailey, A., Hutter, I. and James, K.S. (2022) Care arrangements for older adults: exploring the intergenerational contract in emigrant households of Goa, India, in A. Bailey, M. Hyde and K.S. James (eds) Care for Older Adults in India: Living Arrangements and Quality of Life, Bristol: Policy Press, pp 86117.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Walker, A. and Maltby, T. (2012) Active ageing: a strategic policy solution to demographic ageing in the European Union, International Journal of Social Welfare, 21(Suppl 1): S117130. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2397.2012.00871.x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Witt, M.A. (2019) De-globalization: theories, predictions, and opportunities for international business research, Journal of International Business Studies, 50(7): 105377. doi: 10.1057/s41267-019-00219-7

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • World Bank Open Data (2024) Population ages 65 and above, total, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.65UP.TO?view=chart

Martin Hyde University of Leicester, UK

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