Living Arrangements and Care Receipt Among Older People - SFI

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Living Arrangements and Care Receipt Among Older People - SFI

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Sweden (Figure 7). Numerous studies have shown that individuals with more children are

less likely to live alone at older ages than those with fewer children (Mutchler, 1992,

Wolf, 1994). In addition, kin availability has been demonstrated to be an important

predictor of changes over time in the pattern of solitary living among older women

(Wolf, 1995). The equation fewer children = increase in solitary living has been used as

a basis for the concern in the future about the possible increase in the demand for formal

care services for frail older people lacking intra-household informal support. It is possible

though that, despite a smaller number of children with whom the older parent can

coreside, the outcome “living with children” may be achieved through different

strategies. Declines in fertility may have an important effect on co-residence only if the

number of childless women increases, as having one child may be sufficient for

coresidence (Palloni, 2001). Furthermore fewer children may imply a smaller “crowding”

effect behind decisions concerning leaving the parental home or children may receive

more economic benefits in staying with their parents, postponing their decision to live

independently. Parents may also invest more in their only child in order to keep him/her

closer to them. A recent study in Italy showed that parental housing assistance played an

important role in later life proximity between parents and children and the effect was

mitigated when other children were available (Tomassini, 2003).

If we consider the timing of fertility, again similar patterns occur across European

countries. Recent cohorts show very similar mean ages at fertility of cohorts born in the

1930s (Figure 8). This pattern shows how the mean generation length (i.e., difference

between mother’s and child’s age) among older women will be similar to that

experienced by generations born in the 1960s (even though these cohorts had fewer

children). The timing of fertility (i.e., age of the mother at the last birth) determines to a

large extent whether or not young adult children are still in the parental home when

parents reach their 50s and 60s, although trends in home leaving are also important.

Additionally later ages at childbirth may mean that adult children are still relatively

“young” when their parents begin to experience poor health and disability.

6.3 Female labour-force participation

Rising female labour-force participation has led to concerns that increasing commitments

outside the home will conflict with women’s ability and willingness to continue as

important sources of care for elderly relatives, thereby potentially increasing the

dependence of frail older people on state support (Dooghe, 1992). Among women aged

45-60 in Northern European countries more than a half are economically active (88.2 per

cent in Sweden and 76.9 in Denmark) with a similar, though slightly lower figure (55.4

per cent) for Portugal (Figure 9). In addition, whilst the vast majority of employed

women in this age group in Northern Europe are working part-time (77.8 in the

Netherlands and 47.5 per cent in the UK), the majority of employed women in Italy (84.8

per cent) and in Portugal (79.7 per cent), even within this age range, are working fulltime

(New Cronos).

6.4 Life expectancy

Lack of comparable health measures has been one of the key factors influencing the use

of mortality indicators as proxies for the general well-being of older people. According to

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