Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

‘Active ageing’: from empty rhetoric to effective policy tool

  • KIM BOUDINY (a1)

‘Active ageing’ is a topic of increasing attention in scientific and policy discussions on ageing, yet there is no consensus on its actual meaning. The current paper proposes a detailed classification of various definitions that have been used since its introduction. These definitions are subjected to critical investigation, and subtle differences with regard to such terms as ‘healthy ageing’ and ‘productive ageing’ are clarified. Bearing the hazards of previous definitions in mind, a comprehensive strategy is initiated. Given that earlier definitions have tended to exclude frail older adults, this strategy pays particular attention to the translation of the active-ageing concept to situations of dependency by centring on three key principles: fostering adaptability, supporting the maintenance of emotionally close relationships and removing structural barriers related to age or dependency.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      ‘Active ageing’: from empty rhetoric to effective policy tool
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      ‘Active ageing’: from empty rhetoric to effective policy tool
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      ‘Active ageing’: from empty rhetoric to effective policy tool
      Available formats
The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence <>. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Kim Boudiny, Department of Sociology, University of Antwerp, Sint-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium E-mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

J. Angus and P. Reeve 2006. Ageism: a threat to ‘aging well’ in the 21st century. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 25, 2, 137–52.

P. B. Baltes and J. Smith 2003. New frontiers in the future of aging: from succesful aging of the young old to the dilemmas of the Fourth Age. Gerontology, 49, 2, 123–35.

M. Broese van Groenou and T. van Tilburg 2012. Six-year follow-up on volunteering in later life: a cohort comparison in the Netherlands. European Sociological Review, 28, 1, 111.

J. A. Davey 2002. Active Ageing and education in mid and later life. Ageing & Society, 22, 1, 95113.

C. A. Depp and D. V. Jeste 2009. Definitions and predictors of successful aging: a comprehensive review of larger quantitative studies. Focus, 7, 1, 137–50.

H. E. Edwards , M. D. Courtney and M. O'Reilly 2003. Involving older people in research to examine quality of life in residential aged care. Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, 4, 4, 3843.

A. H. Gauthier and T. M. Smeeding 2003. Time use at older ages: cross-national differences. Research on Aging, 25, 3, 247–74.

B. T. Hirsch , D. A. Macpherson and M. A. Hardy 2000. Occupational age structure and access for older workers. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 53, 3, 401–18.

A. R. Hochschild 1975. Disengagement theory: a critique and proposal. American Sociological Review, 40, 5, 553–69.

S. Katz 2000. BUSY BODIES: activity, aging, and the management of everyday life. Journal of Aging Studies, 14, 2, 135–52.

B. Kubicek , C. Korunka , P. Hoonakker and J. M. Raymo 2010. Work and family characteristics as predictors of early retirement in married men and women. Research on Aging, 32, 4, 467–98.

J. N. Lahey 2008. Age, women, and hiring. An experimental study. The Journal of Human Resources, 43, 1, 3056.

R. J. Lynott and P. P. Lynott 1996. Tracing the course of theoretical development in the sociology of aging. The Gerontologist, 36, 6, 749–60.

M. D. Parker 1996. The relationship between time spent by older adults in leisure activities and life satisfaction. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics, 14, 3, 6171.

J. Perek-Białas , A. Ruzik and L. Vidovićová 2006. Active ageing policies in the Czech Republic and Poland. International Social Science Journal, 58, 190, 559–70.

S. Pettigrew and M. Roberts 2008. Addressing loneliness in later life. Aging & Mental Health, 12, 3, 302–9.

R. Ranzijn 2010. Active ageing – another way to oppress marginalized and disadvantaged elders? Aboriginal elders as a case study. Journal of Health Psychology, 15, 5, 716–23.

V. Richardson 2003. Retirement satisfaction, older adulthood. In T. P. Gullotta and M. Bloom (eds), Encyclopedia of Primary Prevention and Health Promotion. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, 900–6.

J. W. Rowe and R. L. Kahn 1997. Succesful aging. The Gerontologist, 37, 4, 433–40.

F. Schieber , J. L. Fozard , S. Gordon-Salant and J. W. Weiffenbach 1991. Optimizing sensation and perception in older adults. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 7, 2, 133–62.

J. Siegrist and M. Wahrendorf 2009. Participation in socially productive activities and quality of life in early old age: findings from SHARE. Journal of European Social Policy, 19, 4, 317–26.

P. Stenner , T. McFarquhar and A. Bowling 2011. Older people and ‘active ageing’: subjective aspects of ageing actively. Journal of Health Psychology, 16, 3, 467–77.

N. Thompson and S. Thompson 2001. Empowering older people: beyond the care model. Journal of Social Work, 1, 1, 6176.

A. Walker 2002. A strategy for active ageing. International Social Security Review, 55, 1, 121–39.

A. Walker 2010. The emergence and application of active ageing in Europe. In G. Naegele (ed.), Soziale Lebenslaufpolitik. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden, 585601.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 149
Total number of PDF views: 1079 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1403 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 28th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.