Canadians are not only living longer, but they are living more complex lives than earlier
generations. One of the consequences of greater life expectancy is that more generations are co-
existing. While inter-generational strife may develop, opportunities for inter-generational
alliances also exist. Like race, gender, and class, age is an important source of difference: those
at opposite ends of the age spectrum have less power and fewer resources than the middle-aged.
It is important to understand that both the young and the old can be victimized by age-related
According to functionalists, the elderly gradually disengage from their social roles; this
allows their replacement by younger workers. Symbolic interactionists, on the other hand, note
that the elderly take on new roles as they age. Critical theorists point out that that the elderly are
pushed out of the workforce rather than leave voluntarily.
Both the young and the old have specific health concerns. While the elderly generally
enjoy better mental health than young and middle-aged people, they do suffer from numerous
The young and the old share a sad commonality: Due to their physical frailty and
dependence, they are both vulnerable to domestic violence.
In this chapter, you will
• learn how population age is measured and the ways in which it is influenced by fertility,
mortality, and immigration;
• recognize that Canada’s population is aging more quickly than that of many other
• identify the ways in which aging and age groups change in response to changes in
demography and society; and,
• recognize the concerns of an aging society.
ageism: All types of prejudice or discrimination against members of society based on an
individual’s age, whether old or young. 2
dependency ratio: The proportion of people who are considered ‘dependants’ (under 15 or over
65 years old) compared to people 15 to 64 years, who are considered of working age.
gerontology: The scientific study of aging and old age.
median age: The point that divides a population into two groups of equal size based on age,
with half the population above that age and half below it.
Aries, P. (1962 ). Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life. Robert Baldick
(trans.). New York: Knopf.
This is a classic work about the social construction of age periods, such as childhood. It
examines the history of how Western society ‘invented’ the concept of childhood with the
advent of education and other social changes.
Bengston, V. L., Putney, N. M., & Gans, D. (eds.) (2009). Handbook of Theories of Aging, 2
ed. New York: Springer.
This is a highly useful book for students, covering differences among aging theories. The
authors promote cross-disciplinary theorizing in the field of gerontology, with an aim to
inform public policy and contribute to positive social changes for older adults.
Carmel, S., Morse, C. A., & Torres-Gil, F. M. (eds.) (2007). Lessons on Aging from Three
Nations. Amityville, NY: Baywood.
In this two-part volume about research on the ‘art of aging well’, the authors examine aging
populations in three countries: Australia, Israel, and the United States. Among the topics
examined are how people cope with aging and especially how they deal with health problems
in reference to each country’s health-care system.
Cole, J., & Durham, D. (eds.) (2007). Generations and Globalization: Youth, Age, and Family in
the New World Economy. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
This collection of studies argues that societal conceptions of childhood, youth, adulthood,
and old age will shift as the world continues to globalize, transitioning to a global economy
and an international flow of information. 3
Connidis, I. A. (2001). Family Ties and Aging. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
This book by a Canadian sociologist of aging examines issues of intergenerational family ties
with a microsociological focus. From specific examples, the book draws out the significance
and macrosociological implications of these relationships in reference to aging.
Chappell, N., McDonald, L., & Stones, M. (2008). Aging in Contemporary Canada, 2nd ed.
Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall.
This is a useful introduction to social gerontology in Canada, with demographic, theoretical,
and research information on aging in relation to women, ethnic groups, health and well-
being, health care, families, retirement, and so on. All the information is comprehensive and
Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG/ACG)
International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG)
The Gerontological Society of America (GSA)
Zoomer Magazine Canada
Canadian Association for Adolescent Health (CAAH)
Multiple Choice Questions
1. If an individual is experiencing prejudice or discrimination based on that person’s age, he or
she is a victim of
a) age stratification.
c) double aging standards.
d) intergenerational prejudice and discrimination. 4
2. Which of the following is an application of the functionalist approach to aging?
a) activity theory
b) social benefits theory
c) role exit theory
d) disengagement theory
3. Functionalist approaches to aging focus on
a) how the elderly readily give up their social roles.
b) poverty among the elderly.
c) men and women bring different resources to old age.
d) how people who keep up a high level of activity age more successfully than those who do
4. Which of the following statements does not reflect the critical approach to age groups?
a) When elderly people disengage from the workforce, it is often because of other people’s
wishes, not their own.
b) Both the young and the old lack the organization and power to influence public policy.
c) Age groups have different interests.
d) Old age itself is a cause of financial dependence.
5. __________ theory states that people take on new roles as they age.
a) Role replacement
b) Shifting gears
6. Activity theory is based on the __________ perspective.
a) symbolic interactionist
7. Which of the following statements about the portrayal of aging women in the media is not
a) Few storylines feature romantic involvements between older women and younger men. 5
b) If the romantic male lead in a movie is an older man, his love interest is likely to be a
woman close to his age.
c) In movies, young women are often romantically paired with men much older than
d) all of the above
8. ‘Women and men experience age differently.’ This statement is consistent with the
__________ perspective on aging.
a) symbolic interactionist
b) social gerontological
9. According to Philippe Aries,
a) childhood is a cultural invention.
b) age was relatively unimportant before industrial times.
c) before the sixteenth century, children had adult-like tasks to perform in the home and
d) all of the above
10. Facial hair on adolescent boys is an example of a
a) secondary sexual characteristic.
b) normal development.
c) primary sexual characteristic.
d) hormonal change.
11. According to David Matza,
a) everyone has the potential to become delinquent.
b) many young people drift into delinquency without a strong motivation to do harm.
c) delinquents have very different values and attitudes than non-delinquents.
d) All of the above.
12. Techniques of neutralization are
a) methods used by delinquents to ensure that witnesses will not report their activities to the
b) punishments meted out to rule-breakers by the criminal justice system. 6
c) varied excuses or justifications for rule-breaking.
d) none of the above
13. Which of the following is not a social bond, as defined by Trevor Hirschi?
d) involvement in conventional activities
14. Which of the following statements about the baby boom is true?
a) It refers to the sharp increase in births that occurred between 1947 and 1967.
b) It continued the long-term upw