David Wiles

Document Type



Western Australian College of Advanced Education

Place of Publication

Perth, Western Australia


Centre for the Development of Human Resources


Wiles, D. (1990). Introductory notes on Australian social gerontology : edited transcript of a guest lecture for the unit "Human development", delivered at Claremont Campus on Tuesday, 29 May 1990. Perth, Australia: Western Australian College of Advanced Education.


In a 'greying' Australia demographic realities should be articulated clearly so as to meet the challenges of the future. The aged population will 'peak' in 2021 A.D., and there is an increasing social awareness of this population trend. While the causes of longevity remain to be established, the improvement of individual life expectancy means that many seniors will spend decades in 'retirement'. Women, those of non- English speaking backgrounds, and aboriginals are sections of the aged population having special prob+ems. Comparative social policy, however, suggests that the future funding of aged care is not problematical, though national commitment is required.

These demographic changes are likely to suggest a range of investigations for 'theoretical' gerontology, along with improving career opportunities for the range of aged care professionals. As a discipline, gerontology has shifted over time from mostly medical orientations to include more of a societal approach. Gerontology, concerned with the ageing of individuals and populations within their historical, cultural and societal contexts, exhibits a pluralist diversity with regard to its disciplinary origins and paradigmatic orientations. Applied gerontological research, particularly at the local level, often concentrates on seniors' perceptions and upon aged services. While the social custom of retirement remains as the main definitional determinant of 'old age', ongoing social change renders prediction about this institution difficult. While the typical Australian can now expect to enjoy a 'third age' of active retirement, contending social forces seem to be pushing for both 'early' and 'postponed' retirement. Hence maximum feasible personal choice should exist with regard to the timing and extent of retirement, with options such as partial and phased retirement being given greater social acceptance. The greying Australian population is gaining attention at all levels of government, which should enhance future social planning and program provisions, so with the vigorous development of gerontology and the diminution of ageist prejudice within the general society, seniors of the future should enjoy greater opportunities for a 'successful' ageing process in terms of biographical adjustment and continuing intergenerational contribution to the community.