Societal realities of the early 21st century call for the re-application and re-examination of Ulrich Beck’s concept of “Risk Society” to sociological analysis. The book “Risk Society” was first published in 1986 coinciding with the ‘maximum conceivable accident’ in the nuclear power plant of Chernobyl to explain the future of an individualistic society associated with a number of new risks. Today, we are some 35 years down the road living in individualistic societies all across Europe. Europe is facing various ‘mega-trends’ at the same time putting past achievements at risk. Collective precautions, such as retirement pension, health care or long-term care systems are increasingly failing – people have to face contemporary risks individually. Older people have been worst affected and are least able to cope with new risks like the global pandemic Covid-19, widespread poverty and social exclusion, discrimination and the depopulation of rural areas and are likely to be severely affected by the new mega trends of digitization and climate change.

Rigorous empirical analysis requires solid theoretical background study, which is urgently needed in the sociology of ageing. There is still an open question how sociological theories could be better used and developed in the analysis of social change due to ageing. This session will explore the potential of Ulrich Beck’s “Risk Society” for analyzing, explaining and understanding (‘Verstehen’ in the sense of Max Weber) contemporary ageing societies in Europe and the risks they pose to older people.

With the proposed session we would continue a series of ‘sociology of ageing’ sessions at Polish Sociology Congresses started in Zielona Góra 2007 and organized in Cracow 2010, Szczecin 2013, and Gdańsk 2016. We would like to submit a session in English, which previously attracted sociologists from all across Central and Eastern Europe i.e. from countries sharing the reality of particularly rapid societal ageing. The session is assumed to be in English, however presentations in Polish would be also possible and equally welcome.