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The Dignity of the Old: Towards a Global Ethic of Ageing

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How does globalization aff ect the lives of older people? Developments in demography show that the world population is rapidly getting older, and not only in affluent societies. Politically, economically, socially and culturally, the elderly are in a vulnerable position. Is a global ethical response possible? Christian theology should actively support the human rights discourse that pleads for non-discrimination of the elderly in society. Yet, a human rights ethic is unable to account for the stages of life and the specific role of the elderly within communities; these are highlighted within more communitarian approaches. Communitarianism however, has its limitations as well. A global ethic of ageing should not fix the elderly within closed traditions and communities; rather, it requires openness towards other cultures and ways of life. 'Dialogical contextualism' should be the method, and its main question should be: can people globally learn from one another about how to live in dignity into old age? is article concludes with some European refl ections on the dignity of older persons, in which a hermeneutic of the concept of human dignity and empirical findings are brought together. The results may function as an impulse for further intercultural conversation on a global scale.

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