Research Committees


Published in ISA Bulletin number 30, year 1982
Prepared by Kurt Jonassohn ISA Executive Secretary 1974-1982


During the Eighth World Congress of Sociology, held in Toronto (August, 1974), a working group studied the problem "Sociology of Old Age". It was coordinated by Harold L. Orbach (USA), who, at the same time, sent a letter to Thomas Bottomore, then Chairman of the Research Coordinating Committee of ISA, proposing the establishment of a Research Committee on the Sociology of Aging.

41 persons signed the letter, they carne from USA (22), Japan (5), France (3), Canada (2), UK (2), The Netherlands (2), Austria (1), Denmark (1), GFR (1), Mexico (1) and USSR (1).

In 1959, an issue of Current Sociology was dedicated to the problem of "Sociology of Aging”, edited by Leonard D. Cain, Jr. (C. S. Vol. VIII, Nº2, 1959). This was used to support the application of recognition by the ISA.

A coordinating Committee was selected at Toronto, in order to arrange matters concerning the application to become a Research Committee. It was chaired by Harold L. Orbach, and included Anne-Marie Guillemard (France), Jerzy Piotrowski (Poland) and Takako Sodei (Japan).

The working group had organized the following program for the World Congress:

  • S.1: 
    • Part 1: The Integration of the Aged in Modern society (4 contributors).
    • Part 2: Aging and Problems of Health and Medical Care (3 contributors).
  • S.2: 
    • Part 1: Work and Retirement of Older Persons (4 contributors).
    • Part 2: Pension Systems and Economic Problems of Aging (4 contributors).
  • S.3: 
    • Part 1: Family and Social Relationship of the Aged (4 contributors).
    • Part 2: Age Groups and the Problem of Generations (4 contributors).

The Working Group was recognized as a Research Committee in May 1975.

Executive and Members

An election by mail ballot was held in October 1975, in which 32 of the 51 members of the Committee cast votes. The Board elected was:

President Harold L. Orbach (USA) -Del.-
Vice-Presidents Soichi Nasu (Japan)
Ethel Shanas (USA)
Board Members Anne-Marie Guillemard (France) -Alt.-
W. J. A. van den Heuvel (Netherlands)
Jerzy Piotrowski (Poland)
Secretary Betty Havens (Canada)

In August 1978, at the time of the Ninth World Congress held in Uppsala, there were 39 members in good standing, coming from USA (20), Canada (6), Sweden (4), France (3), Austria (2), GFR (2), The Netherlands (2), Japan (1), Norway (1) and Switzerland (1).

In September 1979, through a mail ballot, a new board was elected:

President Anne Marie Guillemard (France) –elected to ISA Ex. Committee as a Repr. of RCC- 
1st Vice-Pr. Harold Orbach (USA)
2nd Vice-Pr. Betty Havens (Canada)
Secretary Malcolm Johnson (UK) - immediately replaced by Alan Walker-
Members Ethel Shanas (USA)
Wim Van den Heuvel (Netherlands)

In a report of August, 1980, the Committee reported that it had 133 members from 15 countries: USA (65), Canada (23), Japan (10), Sweden (5), England (4), France (4), Austria (3), GFR (3), Switzerland (3), Belgium (2), Hungary (2), Mexico (2), Norway (2), The Netherlands (1), Poland (1), Saudi Arabia (1), USSR (1) and UK (1).

In spring 1981, there was a list of 71 members from: USA (38), Canada (11), Sweden (4), Austria (3), GFR (3), Japan (3), Eng1and (2), The Netherlands (2), Belgium (1), France (1), Norway (1), Saudi Arabia (1) and Switzerland (1).


At the Ninth World Congress of Sociology, that took place in Uppsala in 1978, the Committee had its first official meeting. The program developed for this occasion was:

S.1: Aging and Social Policy (7 papers).
S.2: Aging and Paths of Social Development (2 papers).
S.3: Retirement and Pension Policy (8 papers).
S.4: Business Meeting.
S.5: Family, Kin and Intergenerational Relations: Historical and Contemporary Issues (6 papers).
S.6: Comparative Sociology of Aging: Individual and Societal Labels (7 papers).
S.7: Health, Care, Services and Planning (7 papers).

A meeting on "Aging and Family Issues" was held in November 1980, in San Diego (USA). Organized by Harold Orbach in conjunction with the Annual meeting of the American Gerontological Society.

A Regional Seminar was organized by Anne-Marie Guillemard, in Paris, July 8-10, 1981. The meeting, on "Old Age and Public Social Policies" was under the auspices and with the support of the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, in Paris. There were around 40 researchers coming from the USA, Canada, France, UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland. The Committee received $800.00 (US) from the ISA to help organize this meeting.

Three main themes were discussed:

  • Elements of reflection on the social process determining policies on aging in industrialized countries.
  • Comparative elements of reflection on the social consequences of policies on aging.
  • Crisis and future of policies on aging in industrialized countries.

Another meeting was organized on "Comparative Sociology of the Policies on Aging in Industrial Countries", on 12-17 July, 1981, in Hamburg (GFR). It was co-organized by Anne-Marie Guillemard in conjunction with the Executive of the International Congress of Gerontology.


  • The Research Committee edits a Newsletter. At the ISA we have four issues, from 1978 (before the Congress at Uppsala), spring 1979 and summer 1981.
  • The Research Committee has a project to distribute "Research Bibliographies" to the membership. These bibliographies deal with specific countries: Japan, UK, The Netherlands and Canada. We do not have more specific information on these publications.
  • The proceedings of the regional seminar organized in Paris should be published by Sage (International sociological Series) under the title "The making of Old Age policies – a comparative approach" -Anne-Marie Guillemard editor-.