Three competing interpretations of policy problems: Tame and Wicked Problems through the Lenses of Population Aging

Patrik Marier, Isabelle Van Pevenage (2017)
Policy & Society, 36(3): 430-445


This contribution presents competing lenses of population aging as policy problems and it compares their impact on the treatment of policy problems. Three lenses are analysed: intergenerational, biomedical and social gerontological. The intergenerational lens treats population aging as a new form of class conflict along age groups. The social gerontological lens claims that population aging is first and foremost a social issue and it stands in opposition to the dominance of biomedical approaches that treat aging as a pathology. The presence of these three alternative conceptions of the policy problem is indicative of the complexity surrounding population aging and the importance of having divergent definitions of policy problems. Via an analysis of informal care giving in the Canadian context, this contribution also presents a comparison of the three lenses with a focus on the roots of these conceptualisations in various disciplines, their prevalence in various public organisations, and the policy consequences of their strength or weakness.