Theoretical and conceptual framework for population ageing research

  • Jelena (Novica) Stojilković Gnjatović Faculty of Geography, University of Belgrade, Belgrade (Serbia)
Keywords: population ageing, theoretical framework, demographic transitions, cohort, life expectancy


The ageing of the population is a contemporary phenomenon, but its foundations were laid decades ago. Changing age structures and the consequent demographic ageing has only recently become the subject of theoretical (re)consideration, since the theory of demographic transition only values fertility and mortality trajectories. The emergence of “new” demography takes into account the momentum created by the previous trends in population dynamics and explains the future rejuvenation or ageing of the population. The importance of inherited age structure can be illustrated using an approach that represents distorted cohort flows, showing that baby booms and baby busts can play a crucial role in the future ageing of the population. While in the past it was fertility that predominantly affected age structure, recent research has revealed that changes in life expectancy are becoming a more prominent factor in shaping expected population ageing trends. The general theory of population ageing would have to consider the possible compression of morbidity, dynamic equilibrium, or the expansion of morbidity, since the future course of (healthy) life expectancy is determining the scope of the old and fragile population. The status of theory in demography has long been problematic, since the “grandiose” theory of demographic transition had to be reevaluated. Modern approaches apply more flexible theoretical frameworks to explain contemporary demographic changes and provide a conceptual background. As such, the important paradigm for the demography of ageing should be the prospective paradigm, which uses information about the longevity of the population and transposes it to population ageing research. The theory of population metabolism seems to adequately define why population ageing is important for cohorts and generation change, especially in cases where distorted cohort flows create prominent cohort oscillation. The need to create adequate policies for changing age composition morphology is highlighted in the domain of institutional adaptation, where the concept of population balance can provide the appropriate framework. Also, as life events tend to take place more often at certain points in the life cycle – for example during adulthood and entering old age – the idea of population densities should be further explored.


Download data is not yet available.


Bloom, D., & LeeLuca, D. (2016). The Global Demography of Aging: Facts, Explanations, Future. Boston: Program on the Global Demography of Aging at Harvard University (Working Paper Series PGDA No. 130)

Burch, T. (2003). Demography in a new key: A theory of population theory. Demographic research, 9, 263-284.

Carnes, B. A., & Olshansky, J. S. (2007). A Realist View of Aging, Mortality, and Future Longevity. Population and Development Review, 33(2), 367-381.

Chesnais, J. C. (1990). Demographic Transition Patterns and Their Impact on the Age Structure. Population and Development Review, 16(2), 327-336. DOI: 10.2307/1971593

Dyson, T. (2011). The Role of the Demographic Transition in the Process of Urbanization. Population and Development Review, 37(s1), 34-54.

Fries, J. (1985). The compression of morbidity. World Health Forum, 6, 47-51.

Fries, J. F., Bruce, B., & Chakravaty, E. (2011). Compression of Morbidity 1980–2011: A Focused Review of Paradigms and Progress. Journal of Aging Research, 2011, 1-10.

Kurek, S. (2007). Population ageing research from a geographical perspective – methodological approach. Bulletin of Geography (Socio-economic Series), 8, 30-49.

Laslett, P. (1995). Necessary Knowledge: Age and Aging in the Societies of the Past. In D. I. Kertzer & P. Laslett (Eds.), Aging in the Past, Demography, Society, and Old Age (pp. 4-79). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lutz, W. (2013). Demographic Metabolism: A Predictive Theory of Socioeconomic Change. Population and Development Review, 38(s1), 283–301.

Lutz, W., & Sanderson, W. (2005). Toward a concept of population balance considering age-structure, human capital, and intergenerational equity. In S. Tuljapurkar, I. Pool & V. Prachuabmoh (Eds.), Population, Resources and Development. Riding the Age Waves, Vol I (pp. 119–137). Dordrecht: Springer.

Michel, J. P., & Robine, J. M. (2004). A “New” General Theory of Population Ageing. The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance, 29(4), 667–678.

Nusselder, W. (1998). Compression or expansion of morbidity? A life-table approach. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISBN: 90·9011630·3).

Oeppen, J., & Vaupel, J. (2002). Broken Limits to Life Expectancy. Science, 296(5570), 1029-1031.

Omran, A. (2005). The Epidemiologic Transition: A Theory of the Epidemiology of Population Change. The Milbank Quarterly, 83(4), 731–57. Reprinted from The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, 49(4), 1971, 509–538. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2005.00398.x

Olshansky, S. J., Carnes, B. A., & Désesquelles, A. (2001). Demography. Prospects for human longevity. Science, 291(5508), 1491-1492.

Pampel, F., & Peters, E. (1995). The Esterline Effect. Annual Review of Sociology, 21, 163-194.

Pierret, C. (2006). The ‘sandwich generation’: women caring for parents and children. Monthly Labor Review.

Penev, G. (1997). Demografske determinante starenja stanovništva SR Jugoslavije ‒ modelski pristup. Stanovništvo, 35(3-4), 109-129.

Pool, I. (2005). Age strucutural transitions and policy: frameworks. In S. Tuljapukur, I. Pool, & V. Prachuabmoh (Eds.), Population, Resources and Development. Riding the Age Waves, Volume I (pp. 13-39). Dordrecht: Springer.

Pool, I., Prachuabmoh, V., & Tuljapurkar, S. (2005). Structural transitions, population waves and “Political arithmetick”. In S. Tuljapurkar, I. Pool & V. Prachuabmoh (Eds.), Population, Resources and Development. Riding the Age Waves, Vol I (pp. 3–10.) Dordrecht: Springer.

Pool, I., & Wong, L. (2006). Age-Structural Transitions and Policy: An Emerging Issue. In I. Pool, L. Wong & E. Vilquin (Eds.), Age-Structural Transitions: Challenges for Development (pp. 3-20). Paris: CICRED.

Радовановић, М. (1988). Становништво као аутономни биосоцијални и географски систем. Зборник радова Географског института „Јован Цвијић“, 40, 167–178.

Rindfuss, R. R. (1991). The Young Adult Years: Diversity, Structural Change, and Fertility. Demography, 28(4), 493–512.

Robine, J. M. (2003). Life Course, Environmental Change, and Life Span. In Carey, J. R. & Tuljapurkar, S. (Eds.), Lifespan: evolutionary, ecological, and demographic perspectives. Population and development review. A Supplement to Volume 29 (pp. 229-238). New York: Population Council.

Robine, J. M., & Michel, J. P. (2004). Looking Forward to a General Theory on Population Aging. Journal of Gerontology: Medical sciences, 59(6), 590–597.

Rosset, E. (1964). Aging Process of Population. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Rowland, D. (2012). Population Ageing. The Transformation of Societies. Dordrecht: Springer.

Ryder, N. B. (1965). The Cohort as a Concept in the Study of Social Change. American Sociological Review, 30(6), 843-861.

Safarova, G. (2011). Demography of Aging: Current State and Priority Driven Research Directions. Advances in Gerontology, 1(1), 5–15.

Sanderson, W., & Scherbov, S. (2007). A new perspective on population aging. Demographic Research, 16, 27–58.

Sanderson, W., & Scherbov, S. (2008). Rethinking Age and Aging. Population Bulletin, 63(4), 1–15.

Sanderson, W., & Scherbov, S. (2013). The Characteristics Approach to the Measurement of Population Aging. Population and development review, 39(4), 673–685.

Sanderson, W., & Scherbov, S. (2014). Measuring the Speed of Aging across Population Subgroups. PLoS ONE, 9(5), 1-4.

Sanderson, W., & Scherbov, S. (2015). Faster Increases in Human Life Expectancy Could Lead to Slower Population Aging. PLoS ONE, 10(4), 1-9.

Sanderson, W., & Scherbov, S. (2016). New Approaches to the Conceptualization and Measurement of Age and Aging. Journal of Aging and Health, 28(7), 1159-1177.

Siegel, J. (1980). On the Demography of Ageing. Demography, 17(4), 345-364.

Verdery, A. (2015). Links Between Demographic and Kinship Transitions. Population and Development Review, 41(3), 465-484.

Vaupel, J. (2010). Biodemography of human ageing. Nature, 464(7288), 536-542.

Weeks, J. (2008). Population. An Introduction to Concepts and Issues (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

How to Cite
Stojilković Gnjatović, J. (2019). Theoretical and conceptual framework for population ageing research. Stanovništvo, 57(2), 13-33.