Aspects of Ageing in South Asia and Europe
17 February 2015
A conference organised by the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” will address how people approach ageing and the impact of an ever growing elderly population on society. The international workshop being held from February 24 to 26, 2015 in New Delhi, India, will focus on the demographic and social developments in South Asia and Europe. Gerontologist Prof. Dr. Andreas Kruse of Heidelberg University and anthropologist Prof. Dr. Sarah Lamb of Brandeis University in Waltham (USA) will hold lectures open to the public. The event is being organised by the “Ageing in a Transcultural Context” research project of the Cluster of Excellence.
Asia is undergoing drastic demographic and social change, as organiser Prof. Dr. Christiane Brosius explains. “After years of rapid population growth and tremendous economic liberalisation, the number of senior citizens continues to grow. At the same time, family relationships, gender roles and the working world are changing. These changes sometimes have serious consequences for the elderly.” South Asia, one of the most populous and yet structurally weak regions of Asia, is especially affected, in particular the rapidly growing urban areas. One session of the conference therefore addresses ageing in the city, with lectures on the living situation of the elderly in Delhi, India, and on seniors’ perspectives on family cohesion and the working world in Kathmandu in Nepal. Researchers will also discuss how Hinduism and Buddhism approach ageing. The Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley, for example, hold ceremonial processions celebrating their elders.
“One finding of our research project is that while South Asia’s mass media propagate a new, Western-influenced understanding of ageing, there is barely any dialogue between the generations on how to cope with the demographic changes and effects on society,” says Prof. Brosius. According to the researcher, there are no universal answers, thus making new approaches necessary. In his opening speech, gerontologist Andreas Kruse will explore how an ageing society does not necessarily mean a loss of competitiveness or solidarity, but also offers opportunities and potential for development. Ethnologist Sarah Lamb’s keynote lecture will address how, in Asia just as in Europe, particular values and norms of a society are reflected in its view of ageing and treatment of seniors.
The international workshop “New Approaches to Ageing in South Asia and Europe” is being organised by the “Ageing in a Transcultural Context” research group of the Cluster of Excellence, which is headed by Prof. Brosius and Prof. Kruse together with Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels. The project works in collaboration with the “Europe and Global Aging” research network launched by Prof. Dr. Madeleine Herren-Oesch at the University of Basel’s Institute for European Global Studies, which is also participating in the conference. Prof. Herren-Oesch was Director of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” from 2007 to 2012. Heidelberg University is also organising a related event, a “Studium Generale” lecture series in the 2015 summer semester entitled “Ageing Differently – Cultural Diversity and Myriad Blueprints”. Prof. Kruse will kick off the series on 11 May 2015 in the Great Hall of the New University building.