Chapter 1 – Aging Today
A. I NTRODUCTION
i) Social Structures: relatively stable patterns of social interactions
ii) Aging is universal – thus, we are concerned about learning it.
iii) Gerontology: discipline that systematically studies aging. There are 2 views:
1) How aging affects individuals,
2) How aging population will change society
iv) Critical Gerontology
Recognize the social, political, cultural contexts in which older people live.
Critical gerontologists argue that ↑ number of seniors is not the basic problem but it is
that the increase is taking place in a society that devalues the elderly
B. M YTHS AND R EALITIES OFA GING
i) Stereotyping and Prejudice towards older people (65+) is very common.
Stereotypes: one-sided, exaggerated and prejudiced view of a type of person/group. Some
basis of truth, but are distorted and lead to discrimination. (negative or positive)
Prejudice: being biased against someone or something (neg. judgment before knowing
Discrimination: unfair treatment of a person or group based on prejudice
Stereotypes lead to misjudgment, mistreatment, negative attitudes, discrimination and
ii) Gerontology has 2 primary goals:
1) Produce accurate knowledge about aging
2) Work with older people to apply knowledge to create better life
Factual knowledge of aging improves with education
Based on classroom and experiential group participation in Medical School, students
reported better attitude towards older people
Few people face sickness or loneliness due to retirement
Every old person is different from others (no one is alike)
Aging being a burden to society is portrayed by the media
Through diff. activities, retirees able to keep in touch with community
Retirement has little effect on health, social activity or happiness.
Many retirees take up jobs/activities to stay activity (including returning to work)
Older people face ↓ risk of criminal victimization than any other age group
Only 7.4% of older people in 2001 lived in an institution
Women run into ↑ risk of institutionalization at every age in later life.
Overall institutionalization rates have ↓ over past several decades.
Future trends = ↑community care, ↓ institutionalization
1 C. A TTITUDES TOWARD O LDA GE
i) The stereotypes held are both positive and negative.
Many of our stereotypes consist of negative views
1) Negative stereotypes
o All old people have memory loss and Dementia
2) Positive Stereotypes
o Older people are more wiser and more loving
Prejudice or discrimination against people based on age – most often involves older people
Beliefs, attitudes, and acts that denigrate individuals or groups based on their
Research shows that Canadian society has an ambivalent view of aging 0 ageism exists
alongside care and concern for old people.
Older people in Canada have certain compensations which include:
o Guaranteed incomes, subsidized housing, free medical care
o Reduced rates on transportation and vacations
o Bonuses such as tax breaks, free tuition, and financial support for recreation
Specialized speech register resembling baby talk in addressing older adults
Used by institutional workers; driven by stereotypes (speaker assumes older person has
low mental ability)
Has a negative effect on the older person as it creates low self-esteem, reduces person’s
ability to communicate effectively, decreases quality of interaction and reduces older
person’s sense of control.
iv) New Ageism
Belief that older people need special treatment due to poor health, poverty, and lack of
v) Compassionate Stereotype
Attempts to create sympathy for older people.
Helped created many of the social policies that older people benefit from today, but still
works against older people by reinforcing the negative stereotype of old age
2 D. A GEISM AND SOCIAL P OLICY
i) Ageism not only focuses on an individual but also an aging population. This type of ageism
reflects fear in aging society.
ii) New generation of older population viewed as burden on Canadian society.
iii) Fear that ↑ number and proportion of older people will = ↑ costs of pension and healthcare
(which will result in economic collapse and intergenerational conflict)
iv) Intergenerational Equity
Call for a smaller proportion of public support for older people; based on belied that older
people use a disproportionate share of public resources
Some studies conclude that over the life course, private exchange of supports between
parents and children is not b