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SOCI 1002 (204)
Lecture 7

Lecture 7: Aging and Death

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SOCI 1002
Tamy Superle

Lecture 7: Aging and Dying Sociology of Aging  For sociologists, aging is a process of socialization or learning new roles appropriate to different stages of life  Significance of aging varies from one society to the next: o Different societies attach different meanings t progression of life through its various stages How does our society deal with aging? Youthfulness Across the Life Course  Pressure on women (and increasingly on men) to maintain a youthful appearance and the presumption that it’s possible to slow or stop the aging process  Cult of youthfulness and virility  Perceptions in the decline in beauty, sexuality, and fertility  A lot of money and effort spent in the attempts to restore the vigour of youth and “turn back the clock” How do other societies deal with aging? “New” Division of the Life Course  First Stage: childhood  Second Stage: adulthood  Third Stage: the younger elderly (65-75) o Living in responsible health and financial security  Fourth Stage: older elderly (75-85) o Old age and dependency Aging and the Life Course  Life course: phases of life through which people pass. These stages vary from one society and historical period to another.  Stages often marked by rites of passage: cultural ceremonies that mark transition from one stage of life to another or from life to death Changes to Childhood  Modern childhood (closer to what we have today) began to emerge in the West in the 18 and 19 centuries  Involved three interrelated changes: o Shift from work to school o The decision to limit family sizes o Reduction in infant death rate  The meaning of childhood cannot be extracted from the particular place, time, culture, and family structure within which it’s embedded  There’s no singular childhood, and childhoods are always changing and being reconstituted Social Construction of Mid-Life  Mid-life in the west viewed as a challenging time o Juncture between physical and mental growth and decline o Biological changes take place, but they’re not absolute or entirely predictable  Attitudes towards mid-life aren’t universal o In Japanese culture, people aren’t generally considered mature until 50 Age Cohort and Generation  Age Cohort: a category or people born in same range of years  Age Roles: norms and expectations about behaviour of people in different age cohorts  A generation is a special type of age cohort o Comprises members of an age cohort who have unique and formative experiences during youth Lost Generation of American Youth  Consequences of the economic crisis for this generation of young adults o High unemployment o Delayed career starts and/or different career paths o Longer time in education o High student debts o Staying at home longer o Delayed marriage and families Aging Process  Being old is a master status  Aging as inevitable decline is a medical construct  Cultural constructions of old age and death The Greying of Society  Seniors represent on the fastest growing groups in Canada  In 2006, more than 13% of Canadians were over 65  Projection: 2020—20%, 2050—25% Potential Consequences of a Greying Society  Stress on social programs, especially health care  Proportionately fewer children in the population in the future  Ration of non-workers to workers increasing (dependency ratio)  People working longer (delaying retirement) Aging and Inequality: Age Stratification  Age Stratification: social inequality between age cohorts  Exists in all societies and can be observed in everyday social interaction  The very young and very old are often at bottom of stratification system The Power and Wealth Of Seniors
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