A basic premise underlying this article is that the social surroundings of individuals as they gradually age are not homogeneous and have influence on their well-being. Furthermore, if significant variation on the social context are found, they should also affect and be taking into account on the provision of different kinds of public welfare support.
This paper analyses two particularly relevant variables influencing this context, location and family availability. We ask if a focus on head count demographics hide important aspects of the challenges posed upon welfare agencies when preparing for and undertaking social work in practice.
In order to illustrate the magnitude of those differences we study the population composition in three regions in Norway: The municipality of Oslo, Akershus county and Helgeland. We combine population registers with a parent child identifier, which enables us to map the older person’s spousal situation, presence and location of children (and grandchildren), what we term life links adjusted shares.
The results revealed that the female surplus in the older population is far stronger in Oslo than in the two other regions considered. Moreover, the combination of a higher prevalence of older people not residing together with a spouse, older people without children, and older peoples with fewer children, place Oslo’s older residents in a relatively more vulnerable position in terms of spouse and kinship availability. Hence, we will claim that there is a need for an increased attention to not only head count demographics, but also to the uneven geographic distribution of life links.
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