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Book by Prof. J. TroisiThe Elderly Woman in Asia: Her Roles and Positions, Edited by Joseph Troisi and Ann Lencyk Pawliczko, Malta: International Institute on Ageing, United Nations - Malta, 2008. ISBN: 978-99932-0-582-1

As medical and technological advances make it possible for people to live longer lives, the percentage of the population that is over sixty years old continue to increase in global and Asian contexts. The Elderly Woman in Asia comprises a series of papers that give an insight to the conditions and concerns of women in selected societies across Asia, highlighting specific problems that should be addressed and proposals as to how they can be addressed. All chapters would be useful to policy-makers and organizations who have relegated these issues to the backroom but now need to look at them again urgently.

The Elderly Woman in Asia is an examination of the state of older women in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Thailand. Reading the chapters one learns of the importance that in a rapidly transforming Asia, where social and cultural norms are undergoing a dynamic revolution, attention must now needs to be focused on the older women living in this region. We read in the editors’ introductory piece that currently 11% of the world’s population in 60 years or over, a total of 688 million persons so that one out of every nine persons falls within this cohort. In Asia, as much as nine percent of the population is 60 or above, although by 2050 this number will increase to 24%. However, population ageing is not gender-neutral and men’s higher mortality over the life course means that women typically outnumber men at older ages and the different being most start amongst the old-old - that is, those 80 years or over. The book describes their unique roles in the family and society and how these have changed over the years with the weakening of the traditional extended family system and increasing urbanisation. Moreover, it compares older women with their male counterparts in terms of demographic characteristics, life expectancy, health status, literacy and educational attainment - as well as with respect to social status within the family and society, including the decision-making power within the family and their contributions to the family and society.

The publishing of The Elderly Woman in Asia is timely as the United Nations is now behind an international drive to assess the extent that governments have implemented the policy directions found in the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing for which most countries signed allegiance in The Second World Assembly on Ageing in Madrid in 2002. Indeed, a critical refection of the studies inherent in this manuscript lead to the conclusion that government policies and programmes should give high priorities to the special and unique needs of older women. Empowering women as well as ensuring equal success too basic social services, education and employment opportunities through the life cycle should be made at the centre of government policies on later life. In short, Troisi and Pawliczko’s contribution is a marvellous collection of articles by an outstanding group of gerontological scholars. The articles are comprehensive in scope, covering a range of topics and demonstrating with penetrating insight and thorough empirical analysis how and why age is relevant to women living in Asia. Many of the articles would be interesting to undergraduates and the entire volume would be an excellent supplement for a graduate seminar on ageing. Troisi and Pawliczko have surely closed a gap in Asian gerontological scholarship by analysing the significance of age and gender as interlocking structures of inequality.

15 Feb. 2008

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