The Power of the Old Persons’ Lobby

My new article on global advocacy for older people is out in the journal Social Movement Studies. I hope this is the first of many articles on this fascinating topic. If we really expect that population aging will lead older people to take over politics, then shouldn’t we already see the influence global advocacy groups?

Abstract: The number of groups advocating on behalf of older people, their activities, and their influence suggests that a transnational advocacy network around aging is emerging, but there have been no attempts to study how dense this network is, nor how power is distributed within it. Through collective action frame analysis, this article explores whether organizations advocating on behalf of older people represent the variety of global aging experiences in both developed and less developed contexts. The analysis relies on four types of evidence: documentary; survey; interview; and observation. Advocacy groups employ a number of diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational frames. The findings support arguments in the literature that diverse collective action frames can be more of an asset than a liability because they increase the network’s reach and resonance with multiple stakeholders. Although the aging advocacy network is not very dense, it is becoming denser because of rise of the human rights master frame and the rally for a UN Convention on the Rights of Older People. The frame empowers the network to use its diversity to its advantage, since individual organizations can work for whatever piece of the human rights frame matches best with their organization’s mandate. There are still major power imbalances within the network, however. While it is growing more inclusive of voices from less developed countries, global civil society remains a space for organizations with resources, which those organizations based in poorer countries simply do not have.

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