Elder care and dependence: no longer just a women’s concern?
Population and Societies
n° 483, November 2011
Today, problems of dependence concern women more than men. First, more women than men become dependent, partly because they live to older ages. Second, it is mainly women who shoulder the burden of caring for elderly dependent parents or spouses. Based on an overview of research in this field, Carole Bonnet, Emmanuelle Cambois, Chantal Cases and Joëlle Gaymu describe likely demographic trends over coming decades and examine how men may be called upon to play a greater role in the family.
As people grow older, they face an increasing risk of loss of autonomy. When assistance with the activities of daily living becomes indispensable, this leads to dependence. Women live for longer than men, and outnumber them at advanced ages. They are also more frequently affected by disabilities so they currently represent the majority of elderly dependent persons receiving home care. Women are also the main care providers in the family. It is they who assume the major burden of care for an elderly parent or spouse. In coming decades, the elder population will increase, with a growing proportion of men among dependent persons and among potential caregivers. Will this lead to a rebalancing of family roles? And if so, what form will they take? Will there be an increase in professional home care? And will costs be borne at individual or collective level?