The crisis of Neoliberal project of aging during the COVID-19 pandemic: from compulsory activity to mandatory isolation

Elena Bogdanova, Irina Grigoryeva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This paper aims to consider how the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic questions the neoliberal project of ageing, based on a notion of a healthy, active, working older person. A long-term struggle to include older people has been (temporarily) replaced with a struggle to exclude them. This seems to be one of the most sensitive sore spots of the coronavirus crisis and one of the most serious challenges to social policy and welfare systems the world over. The purpose of this paper is to consider where the concepts of ageing and the action on ageing were at right before the crisis and what their further development may look like. Design/methodology/approach: This paper provides a critical overview of main conceptions based on the neoliberal project of ageing. Findings: The main principle of the neoliberal project of ageing, which had been formed on the crossroad of social theory and policy through decades, became vulnerable in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. The new forced ageing reveals its repressive nature through ensuring seniors’ safety from exposure, their removal from work and isolation. The theory now faces new challenges of meshing a neoliberal actor – active, independent and productive – with an older person in isolation, who needs safeguarding, of re-conceptualizing social exclusion of seniors in a situation where exclusion is equated with safety, of resolving a dilemma between isolation and respect of human rights and of keeping progress in anti-ageism. Research limitations/implications: This paper presents an overview of the main conceptions, underlying the neoliberal project of ageing. It aims to designate the vulnerabilities of the project, which were revealed under the situation of pandemic. Further development of the discussion needs detailed analysis of theoretical conceptions of ageing. Practical implications: Theoretical debate reflects policy of ageing. Discussion of theoretical problems of ageism, social exclusion, safeguarding of the elderly and compulsion are necessary for improvement of social policy of ageing. Social implications: When the neoliberal project of ageing comes into collision with the reality with the reality, the authors recognize it as a crisis. It moves the society, and especially the elderly, to the situation of uncertainty. This paper calls for discussion and search for a new balance among the generations in a society. Originality/value: This paper relies upon the current debate on neoliberal project of ageing and responds immediately to the situation of pandemic. Now conceptual problems in theories of ageing and policy projects became visible, and the authors suppose it is time to initiate this discussion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-85
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adult Protection
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


  • Abuse
  • Active ageing
  • Conceptual crisis
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Human rights of older persons
  • Isolation
  • Neoliberal project of ageing
  • Safeguarding


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