In many parts of rural Central and Eastern Europe, out-migration and low birth rates have brought about what the World Bank terms the third transition and the 'graying' of the population. The aging of populations has many implications for public policy, but one that has not been so well researched is the fact that in central and eastern parts of Europe, the majority of private land owners are over 60 years old. Where land markets are weak because of low prices, restrictions on free disposition or fragmented structures, then elderly owners can find themselves unable to work or rent out their land. In many of the countries that pursued restitution, new owners were urban based. They also have children who are not interested in becoming owners of farmland. In the short term, some of these problems lead to land being abandoned which not only wastes its capital potential but also can have negative effects on the value of neighbouring land.
The aim of this research was to explore the extent of the phenomena and to understand how the age structure was influencing changing patterns of land use and the development of the rural economy. Special attention was given to providing critical and comparative analyses of land use and other public policies introduced to address the graying of the countryside.