Health chiefs are considering splitting social care funding into separate schemes for people of working age and those in retirement.
The proposal is one of several under discussion in preparation for the Department of Health's social care green paper, which director general for social care David Behan said would be delivered before next summer.
Mr Behan said some of the work had focused on "intergenerational fairness".
The department was also seeking the correct "balance of responsibility" between the individual, the family and the state.
"It isn't just a funding vision - it's as much about what people should do for themselves, what is the role for families, particularly family carers, and what role the state plays," Mr Behan said.
The DH is planning an international conference in January on the pros and cons of other countries' systems. It has commissioned the London School of Economics to model six approaches, ranging from making no changes to a system where the state pays for all care.
For more on the proposals, go to www.careandsupport.direct.gov.uk