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The ageing of population is an outcome of successful demographic transition. One of the unprecedented achievements in the medical history of the twentieth century is the prolongation of the lifespan of human beings. Globally, the life expectancy at birth had been around 47 years in the 1950s. This increased tremendously to 67 years in 2008 – 20 added years in a lifespan of about 50 years. Between the more developed regions and the less developed regions, the gain was impressive among the less developed regions with 24 years against a mere 10 years among the more developed regions (United Nations (UN), 2007). However, the problems associated with an ageing population could be located in a developmental context through institutions that have been shaped by this experience. Institutional factors included on the one hand, the norm of a restricted definition of work as market-related productive activity and the association of ageing with ‘non-work’ and dependency, and on the other hand, state and market failures to internalize the interests of heterogeneous groups of the aged population. An important aspect here is the feminization of ageing, including the vulnerability of widows, alongside the greater emphasis on women as caregivers.
The recent emphasis in ageing research in the developing world is attributed to the growing number of elderly persons and the institutional failures to render adequate care for them. Population ageing is generally attributed to continuous decrease in fertility levels and constant increase in life expectancy.
The goal of this chapter is to provide guidelines for public policy for social security and health care of the aged. The varied needs and experiences of the aged were obtained from clusters of populations that were probed as distinct groups in which key aspects of ageing were likely to differ from one another. This study envisaged an interest in understanding the significance of shifts in intergenerational contracts, in emerging institutional failures to cope with the process of ageing and it's implications for social security and health of a highly heterogeneous ageing population in Sri Lanka.
Research Design and Methods
Both time and budget constraints were considered in designing techniques and selecting the sample. Responding to the underlying concerns to capture the dimensions, characteristics and trends related to ageing among different social and economic groups of the aged, the sample was stratified into population clusters from selected locations that used to advantage intracluster homogeneity. Four clusters captured the ethnic variations. The sample of majority ethnic group of Sinhalese was drawn from two locations, one in and around the hill country with its main town, Kandy, which is home to a community that is upholding its own set of traditions, the other from the southern area in and around Galle, from a rural population that has entrenched traditions of its own. Rural agricultural society is represented by a sample from an interior rural location, which continues with traditional peasant agriculture while adopting non-traditional methods as well.