Support Networks of Older People in Europe: An Analysis with Data of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE)

Martina Brandt, Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy

Western societies age rapidly. Today, people do not only live longer, they also have less children. These developments exert considerable pressure on pension and health systems. Children are the most important source of support in old age, especially when there is no partner. In times of rising childlessness we thus face new challenges: On which support networks do childless older people rely? (How) can the lack of children be compensated? Who provides help and care? We assess the support networks of people aged 50 and over in 14 European countries based on the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). When comparing support networks of childless older people to parent`s networks we focus the importance of the extended family as well as public services. Our analyses show that private help for childless elders is often taken over by the extended family and neighbors. Intense care tasks, however, are mostly provided by public providers. The family and especially intergenerational relations play an important role for support in old age. When there are no children or children live far away, vital support for older persons has to be taken over by public providers in many cases. In countries with low social service provision, older people thus experience a lack of help more likely, especially when depending on vital care.

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Presented in Session 79: Geographical Diversity of Family Life from a Longitudinal Perspective: Introduction to Three Major Panel Surveys in Germany and Europe