CIGEV, area gerontology: Research on Lifespan, Multidirectionality and Plasticity – Director: Matthias Kliegel

Vulnerability in Old Age

A Comparative Approach


The project tackles three goals:

  1. It explores similarities and differences between older migrants and natives’ vulnerability. Too often, it is assumed that migrants are more vulnerable than natives. While the project does not aim to deny the situations of vulnerability among migrants, the goal is to explore how some can overcome vulnerability, and the reasons why others cannot.
  2. It focuses on a particular type of vulnerability, loneliness: how older persons, including migrants, cope with it, and particularly the role of social ties to overcome it.
  3. The project studies the impact of the welfare state at the destination on migrants’ vulnerability in old age, and the use of social networks to overcome it. For example, Switzerland’s liberal welfare state might make social networks in old age more important, while Luxembourg’s social democratic welfare state can make older persons less reliant on social networks.


This study will compare older natives and migrants in Switzerland using qualitative in-depth interviews and quantitative data analysis. Further, there will be compared older migrants in Switzerland and in Luxembourg drawing on qualitative in-depth interviews. There were conducted 30 in-depth interviews with older Swiss people residing in the cantons of Basel, Geneva and Ticino.