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JSPES, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Fall 2014)
pp. 315 –341

Demographic Change and the Economics of an Aging Society: Key Findings on the Theoretical Positioning of Economics of Aging in Science

Norbert H. Meiners

FHWT University of Applied Sciences Vechta, Germany Carla da Silva Santana University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

The world population is getting older and no one knows exactly what life will be like in tomorrow´s aging societies. The demographic change can be understood as a revolution – a revolution also for economy because aging societies will change the world of businesses and consumers across the globe. It is a fact that there is a strong interaction between demographic change and economy, because people´s economic behaviour varies at different stages of life, and changes in a country´s age structure can have significant effects on its economic performance. Economics of aging (synonym: economics of the elderly, economics of old age) is a subcategory of population economics (also: demographic economics), and deals with the economic aspects of societal aging. It views itself as one of the types of special economics – similar to established “special economics” such as health economics and education economics. At the same time, it is a fairly new field of research and area of activity within gerontology and despite this, there are to date, only very few references in the scientific literature as to the economics of aging. Following the object of investigation, this paper is based on the following leading research question: How can economics of aging be positioned theoretically in science? In this paper a narrative-systematic method is used to review the scientific literature in four English and German language databases (as of March 2014), in order to apply a comparative analysis. This research reveals that economics of aging shows minimal positioning in the scientific literature. There are, however, promising attempts at positioning, which need to be extended and developed. Here, economics of aging should break free from a primarily socioeconomic perspective to rather focus on other economics sectors. The limited theoretical positioning and the missing conceptual foundation of economics of aging constitute limits to the systematic further development of this research area and area of action. The aim here is to expand already existing approaches and to systematically develop them further in order to unlock the economic potential of the demographic development.