Class Notes (806,933)
Canada (492,530)
Sociology (3,199)
SOC101Y1 (985)
Lecture 7

Lecture 7 Nov 3.rtf

9 Pages
Unlock Document

University of Toronto St. George
Matthias Koenig

SOC256H1F - OLD AGE IN DIFFERENT KINDS OF SOCIETIES How often have you heard someone say: - Older people used to be treated with more respect - In the past, children took better care of their parents - Old people get more respect and better treatment in less developed, more traditional societies These popular ideas were the source of a famous social science hypothesis: “The modernization hypothesis” – theoretical justification that we do not need the old, we have better resources today, old people do not have power we need, their knowledge is old - The more modernized the society, the worse is the status of the elderly QUESTION FOR CLASS DISCUSSION: why does this seem so plausible? If it were true, why would it be true? - Maybe because some people had more respect in the past? - The Modernization Hypothesis located above… - Arguments linked to Lenski et al. notions- maybe older people’s knowledge out-dated with a more technologically advanced society… - Some plausibility but dubious assumptions overall Before discussing this hypothesis we need to clarify its two key variables: - Modernization of a society: we will interpret this as its level of technology and the resulting effects such as extent of surplus (Lenski et al: how sophisticated is the level of the core technology in the society in turn affecting how much surplus, inequality etc.) - equate modernization with Lenski et al’s core technology model. - Status of the elderly: this is really a number of variables including: These are all interpretations of the term status and they are all important… These all matter. May be in deed different things – example in Kiev – people may talk about how wonderful old people are but when they need to help may not be forthcoming.  Esteem (honour, respect, deference, prestige)  Positive stereotypes  Supportive treatment (social support) – do people care for the elderly well? - These are different things that are not perfectly related o e.g. it is not unknown for people in a society to SAY how wonderful and valuable old people are, but to DO little to help them - The more technologically advanced a society, the more complex it is, so: o The more sources of status accorded to the elderly - E.g. in Canada the old may get financial and other support form their own savings, family, friends, the government, charitable groups... Other forms of support: their income if still working, financial support from children when needed, from the state, à There is no homogenous understanding of the status of the elderly – thus part of the complexity patch - the more varied elderly people themselves are, and the more variable their status can be - e.g. income and wealth inequality is at its greatest among the old in a modern society, and the wealthier old get a lot more deference à Ask these two questions located below: part one and part two – Silverman and Maxwell went to same data source as parental preferences for desirable traits for daughter in laws and son in law looking at different societies. PART ONE: WHAT WAS THE STATUS OF THE ELDERLY IN PRE-MODERN SOCIETIES? -there is no one answer to this question! Silverman and Maxwell coded 95 ethnographies of premodern societies to assess the ESTEEM given to the elderly. Key findings: -Esteem varies greatly - Hunting and Gathering- no one status of the elderly – in some it could be very low in some and high in others = variable…consider the Ache compared to the ! Kung - esteem for the elderly is higher when: (1) - the elderly provide valued information - the !Kung are a classic example: old people are respected and valued for their knowledge - see Megan Biesele and Nancy Howell, 1981, “The Old People Give you Life,” pp. 77-98 in Pamela T. Amoss and Stevan Harrell (eds.), Other Ways of Growing Old, Stanford University Press, Stanford California). - meaning they give you a lot of valuable information that helps you in life, know who is related to who, how to exploit environment, know cautionary world tales – everyone says the old people are important and valuable because they do this – living store house of learning in this tradition who know old tradition. - Just because they may do less work, they still do usefully contribute - !Kung elderly do less of the more physically demanding work (hunting, gathering) shifting to other useful work including childcare and teaching the young, directing important rituals such as boys’ initiations and girls’ menarche rites, healing in the traditional way, telling stories, singing and dancing, ruling on who has the right to use certain water holes and so on - seen as human storehouses of important information and skills built up over lifetimes Difficulty of old may out-weigh any benefit. Ache subject to many dramatic changes during forest period, oldest and wisest had no useful information (2) Environmental stress is not too high- Ache do not see elders with stores of valuable information. – Ache is a very difficult environment to live in, must move, hard to move in forests compared to desert, hard to carry them across difficult terrain. -Among hunters and gatherers, some environments are very difficult, so that tender loving care for needy people is sometimes too difficult - The Ache are a classic example, sometimes forced to abandon people who could not keep up in difficult moves through the rainforest - Ache pretty low… -sometimes left old people behind, or even killed them -true for others who could not keep up, like the sick in times of epidemics -note that the Ache stopped being “cruel” when they started living relatively secure lives in reservations: environmental stress, not cultural nor individual cruelty, underlay some of their violent customs in the past - Killer of old ladies- tale -- it was the grim necessities of a rigorous environment, once out people’s behavior changed (3) Older people control valued material resources (Silverman and Maxwell) more respect if they control more resources, if they are rich instead of poor, - This does not apply to hunting and gathering societies (why?) this factor did not apply to hunting and gathering societies because it was hard to accumulate wealth there. - With accumulation of land- power and property source of prestige - Nor to women in many pre-modern societies (why?) – not an issue for old women but rather is an issue for old men. Why? Early farming societies were patriarchal men had more power than women… à Why was this true: why would it be higher in some societies: (1) key factor: do the elderly provide key information? – part of modernization hypothesis, modernization societies rapidly changing. Silverman and Maxwell find that elderly’s provision of valuable knowledge varied. One possible NEW hypothesis developed from such work: - “the exchange hypothesis” – getting things in social life including deference, positive regard, esteem = getting stuff is a question of social exchange, you give something to someone who requires to give back to you, those with highest esteem have the most to exchange with others therefore status of any state or life stage depends on the average level of resources in that life stage compared to others - tricky hypothesis because if we define resources as those things which you can trade in society to get esteemed deference we are in a true by definition, we know what resource is if it has the effect we expect- core idea is important - The status of any life stage depends on its relative control of valued resources - One tricky part: defining resources - Resources, their value, and who controls them can change over time - Especially if a society changes, as when simpler societies get absorbed into more technologically advanced onesà low levels become those like higher because of absorption, pick up on their ideas adopting, war, thus the simple societies undergo a lot of social change as they shift from simple technology to more developed Old age pension at 65 meant they had a significant source of income = became valuable resource that was now important == The way simpler societies absorbed into more advanced influences life course stages - e.g. traditional knowledge of older Native Canadians lost value as native communities came under domination, but has since become valued again - Older native people lost some economic resources (e.g. their skills in hunting, gathering, or traditional farming became less useful) but gained others (notably old age pensions) Two halves of the modernization hypothesis – high and low in modern societies … PART TWO: WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE ELDERLY IN HIGHLY DEVELOPED MODERN SOCIETIES? ESTEEM is generally low. - E.g. Graham and Baker, Canadian journal on Aging, vol. 8 no. 3, 1989, pp. 255-67 - Asked both younger people (university students) and older people (senior citizens) in Victoria to rate the social status of people of different ages from 5 to 100 - rated status was low for the very young; rose to a peak in mid-life; dropped from mid-life to old age; and bounced up to average again for those aged 100. - Victoria has many benches for pensioners à Not a lot of difference between older people and younger people – common cultural perception that many share in, and people are aware of DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - Why is social status highest in mid-life? à Kids still dependent on family, whereas family needs to make own way provide for own family - Why is the peak age for status somewhat younger for women than for men? à women judged on appearance more often, definition of beauty prioritizes new features rather than old – same thinking does not apply to men who are judged on material success which rises into middle age which grants them esteem benefits but not for women - Why is status higher for those aged 100 than for those aged 80? à 100 is a rare achievement! Not overall reflection of esteem of elderly but rather achieving 100 years old STEREOTYPES are generally negative - As an informal example, consider birthday cards! - Systematic research also shows this - Physically sick, dependent rather than contributing to societal development à CULTURAL LAG- when society changes and not represented in societal stereotypes, takes a while to be seen in societies SUPPORTIVE TREATMENT is generally outstanding - The elderly in high-tech societies are in many ways the best treated elderly in the history of the world - Material needs supported by public pensions - As we
More Less

Related notes for SOC101Y1

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.