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Past Event

The shadow of the fourth age: older couples’ financial planning for social care and death

About the speaker

Debora Price is a  Professor of Social Gerontology at The University of Manchester,  where she directs MICRA, the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing, and she is currently the President of the British Society of Gerontology (2016 - 2019). 

After reading Law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in the mid-1980s, she practised as a barrister for about 15 years. She was drawn into academia by her concern over pensioner poverty. Now a sociologist and gerontologist, her key areas of interest are poverty and inequality in later life.  Her research centres on finance over the life course, especially pensions and poverty, financial services for an ageing society, and household money. She is particularly interested in the political economy of pensions, and how pension and social security systems influence household and family relationships.  Her concern is for us to have far greater understanding of the fundamental challenges facing our ageing societies by considering how societal structures, values and norms shape the experience of daily life.   

Her research has been funded by the Research Councils, government, quangos, NGOs, professional bodies and industry.  She is particularly interested in collaborative working between academia and outside partners, and working accross disciplinary boundaries.  


Abstract: As policy makers in the United Kingdom and many other countries grapple with financing the needs of an ageing population, financial planning for social care in later life is high on political agendas. In this paper we draw on qualitative research with heterosexual couples aged over 65 in the United Kingdom about their intimate money practices to analyse the day-to-day meanings attributed to money, saving and consumption in the context of financial planning for later life and death. We find that expenditure on funerals and home adaptations is discussed, negotiated and planned, as is ‘downsizing’ to release capital from the home for financing day-to-day expenses and leisure expenses. These outcomes are within easy contemplation and indeed money practice of older couples. In contrast, end-of-life planning for domiciliary or residential care was virtually non-existent across all socio-economic groups, and couples employed a range of techniques to avoid making these discussions ‘real’. Costs (while well known) are seen as astronomical, details are scarce, intensive domiciliary care is never discussed, and death is seen as preferable to residential care. Equity release was associated with worst-case scenarios.  We theorise antipathy to care planning as a product of social and psychological construction of the ‘fourth age’ as a period of abjection, and therefore ‘wasted’ expenditure. Exhortations by policy makers for individuals to consider care costs will be ineffective without recognition of the cultural transformation of later life.

This event is part of a seminar series:

Seminar Series ‘Financial Planning For Later Life in the UK’

Michaelmas Term 2016 Seminar Series ‘Financial Planning For Later Life in the UK’ Thursdays at 14:00 – 15:30 Seminar Room: 66 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6PR Convener: Kenneth Howse   The series will focus on individual behaviour and decision-making for the achievement of financial security in later life. The aim is to invite presentations reporting up-to-d...

Event Details

13 October 2016 14:00 - 15:30


Oxford Institute of Population Ageing

66 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6PR