Vivre/Leben/Vivere (VLV). Old Age Democratization? Progress and Inequalities in Switzerland

Ref. 10685

General description


2011-2012 (life calendars provide however information from the beginning of the 20th century)

Geographical Area

Additional Geographical Information​

Cantons of Geneva, Valais (Central), Bern (Mittelland, Seeland and Oberland), Basel and Ticino


This project proposes to investigate the living conditions of the aged population in Switzerland and to address the diversity of these conditions using an interdisciplinary approach. The study will rely on a survey that will be conducted in 2011 in two French-speaking, two German-speaking areas, and Ticino. Rooted in a common theoretical model, shared concepts, and common objectives, together, we aim to solve the tension between continuity (comparison of our findings with studies conducted in 1979 and 1994) and innovation (better tools, new issues, and a more national representation). In the past century, industrialized countries - among which Switzerland - have witnessed a drastic increase of life expectancy, and a decrease in the prevalence of dependency decreased among the elderly. While a substantial number of positive changes occurred, nothing ensures that similar trends are persisting. Indeed, new generations carrying their own their specificities will soon reach the age of retirement and old age. Further, the characteristics of the aged population in 2011 cannot be satisfactorily predicted on the basis of previous data since the structure of the aged population has drastically changed over the last decades. The massive aging reported in the immigrant population in Switzerland constitutes a clear example of such a compositional change. Provided these various transformations, the proposed project intends to address two major issues simultaneously: heterogeneity among the elderly, i.e., diversity and inequalities, and sustainability of the previous positive trends in terms of social participation, health, and longevity. Our theoretical approach will be centered on the concept of resources, as conceived in the lifespan psychology and the life course theory. Globally, our research design considers how resources are built through individual lives embedded in family trajectories and socioeconomic, cultural, and political contexts. Thus, we will first estimate how health, family, residency, and occupational lifelong trajectories have constructed the pool of resources available to aged individuals. We further intend to assess the diversity of these resources and the way they are managed by individuals to best maintain an active life, high levels of well-being, and autonomy. After connecting the past to the present, we will also consider how, in the current experiences of aging, available individual resources interact with accessible sociostructural resources. From that perspective, the comparison of five different political regions (Geneva, Valais, Bern, Basel, and Ticino) will be highly profitable. Moreover, in Geneva and Valais, we will benefit greatly from the unique opportunity to address recent historical changes through a comparison of our results with a new analysis of the surveys conducted in 1979 and 1994. This constitutes a unique opportunity in the European continent to examine the evolution of the aged population across the last 30 years. Finally, such a resource-based, interdisciplinary approach will provide a powerful tool to identify the most relevant predictors of well-being, in the past and the present, as well as the levers on which individual action and social policies can push to anticipate losses and/or promote successful aging processes.