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Chapter 8

Textbook - Chapter 8 (Grey Power and the Sunset Years)

Family Relations and Human Development
Course Code
FRHD 1020
Sarah Murray

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Class: FRHD*1020 (Couple and Family Relationships)
Professor: S. Murray
Textbook: “The Family Dynamic – A Canadian Perspective” Fifth Edition
Authors: Margaret Ward and Marc Belanger
Publisher: Nelson
ISBN: 978-0-17-650200-3
Chapter 8: Grey Power and the Sunset Years
Learning Objectives
To examine the lifestyle and family relationships of younger and older elderly people, including
variations among minority groups
To look at aging and death in relation to the family life cycle
To discuss the implications of terminal illness and death for family members
To explore policy issues concerning services for the elderly
Social time clock – sense of age range in which certain life events are supposed to happen, those appearing ‘on
time’ are less traumatic
Chronological, physical, psychological, and social – connected to our notions of the social time clock.
Chronological Age
Chronological age is the number of years a person has lived. Certain privileges and responsibilities
come with age (pension, driving test).
Median retirement age is dropping – 1970s and 1980s was 65, 1987 lowered to 60, and since then it has
declined. 2005 age 61. RRSP, economic cutbacks, layoffs, options now have people able to retire between 55
and 64. Most consider old age beginning at 65, which is relatively new standard. 1952 – old age pension given
to residents over 70; 1966 lowered to 65. Before pension plans many worked as long as they could, then
depending on children or charity to survive. Surviving longer creates problems over who is eligible to fill
certain age-related roles.
Box 8.1 – The Elderly in the Past – Robert Miller’s will dated February 1, 1971 (died March 26, 1871)
Physical Age
White hair, wrinkles, slow movement; sex and class differences: men with profession, grey hair a mark of
distinction; men in manual labour, sign of failing ability. Greater crisis for women
Psychological Age
Psychological age is a frame of mind and may be shown through ‘old’ behaviour (i.e. rocking chair, knitting).
Some characteristics are cohort effects – being raised during WWII, etc.
Social Age
Social age is based on cultural norms, which specify how we should act when we are a certain age and how we
should interact with people older and younger than ourselves. Boundaries may be blurred between periods of
life. Women born during 1800s could expect to be widows in their late 50s – today almost 70. Appropriate
behaviour is also shifting (active lifestyles)
Population of Canada is aging – living longer, retiring, swell number of seniors. Seniors made up 13.7% of
population in 2006; 23-25% by 2031. Beginning to describe individuals as young-old (65-74 yrs), middle-old
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(75-84 yrs), and old-old (85+). In 2006, 4,635 were 100 years of age or older, an increase of 22% since 2001
and could triple to more than 14,000 by 2031. Birth rate is down, fewer young Canadians to offset increase
among the elderly which will have far-reaching effects on our social and political systems. Elliot Lake has the
‘oldest’ municipality.
Table 8.1 – Proportion of Persons Aged 65 and Over in the Canadian Population, 1956-2056
Year Percentage
1956 7.7
1961 7.6
1966 7.7
1971 8.1
1976 8.7
1981 9.7
1986 10.7
1991 11.6
1996 12.2
2001 13.0
2006 13.7
2031 23.0 to 25.0 (estimate)
2056 25.0 to 30.0 (estimate)
Key task – accepting shift of roles and allow next generation to take over leadership in various areas of private
and public life and involves a number of smaller changes. People retire making room for younger employees to
take their jobs. Grandparents provide moral support and practical help. Adapt to physical decline. Deal with
loss of relations and acquaintances, prepare for own death. Erik Erikson – integrity vs. despair, looking for
order and meaning. Time too short to start a new life. Sense of meaning – person needn’t fear death. Erikson’s
stage broken further into 2 phases – desire to review one’s life and to give back to society. (Record memoirs,
encore phase of reflection and celebration).
Decisions and events that happen earlier in life also ipact us in these years.
Economic Factors
Pension plans and contributory work pension plans or be dependent on support of their children/community.
1951 Old Age Security Act provided pensions for all Canadians at least 70. Sine 1966 most have also been
covered by the CPP or the QPP. Many employers offer private plans, individuals can set up personal RRSPs.
Able to enjoy traveling and other leisure activities following retirement. Can quit career and volunteer or second
career. Many retire because they are laid off or downsized, take early retirement as they fear future layoffs.
OAS never meant to be sole source of income in old age.
Activities and Interests
Activities and interests depend on health. Change in activities when retired – take time to rest and sleep,
substitute active recreation, time with friends, caring for others, and volunteer work for paid work.
Family Relationships
Transformation – remain with spouse/partner but relationship may change upon retirement. Siblings
relationship remains the same but may become closer during crisis. Relationship with adult children becomes
more equally balanced. Role of grandparent may be gained, needs definition, may be second time parenting.
Couple Relationships: Majority of older people live with a relative, more likely a spouse though greater
number are living alone. More men over 65 are married than women. 80% of men in their 60s were part
of a couple. Aged 80+, 22.3% of women and 65.7% of men living in families were partnered More
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