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SOC101Y1 (470)
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Chapter 17

SOC101Y1 - New Society - Sixth Edition - Chapter 17.docx

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Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC101Y1
Professor
Adam Green

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SOCIOLOGY REVIEW CHAPTER 17: HEALTH AND AGING CHALLENGING COMMONSENSE BELIEFS ABOUT HEALTH AND AGING:  We can learn much about health and aging by reading stories of people’s lives  The assumption that old people should be able to make choices that would have been more beneficial to her health ignores the complex role of social-structural factors such as social class, gender, age, ethnicity, and rural- urban residence in defining the available range of choices and their implication for health and longevity  Sociology offers a lens through which to examine the social factors linked to people’s health and longevity as they age INDIVIDUAL AND POPULATION AGING:  Today, most Canadians can expect to live to old age, barring accidents and wars  Once they reach age 65, they can expect to live even longer  It is not until their 90s that men and women can expect to have approximately the same number of years left to live  The fact that almost everyone can expect to live to old age distinguishes our era from earlier historical periods  In the past, some individuals lived as long as people live today, but never before has the vast majority expected to live to old age  The main reason for the increasing proportion of older adults in the population is that it reflects decreases in fertility; further declines in mortality are now concentrated at the older ages  Deaths in old age usually result from chronic degenerative diseases  Most of us now have multigenerational families  Unlike in the past, young people today often know their grandparents and even their great-grandparents  Increased longevity also means that illnesses and disabilities accompanying old age are more prominent and that different demands are placed on the health-care system than was the case when fewer people lived to old age  Longer life expectancy results in more health-care and service jobs for the younger generation  Now that mandatory retirement has disappeared from virtually all Canadian provinces, more people will likely continue to be employed into their 70s and 80s  How the lives of elderly people are experienced is influenced by the social construction of old age  In western societies, we tend to stereotype older persons, a tendency referred to as AGEISM (prejudice based on age); we are inclined to see elderly people are poor, frail, having no interest in or capacity for sexual relations, being socially isolated and lonely, and lacking a full range of abilities in the workplace  Ageism exists for several reasons: - Segregation of young and old cohorts in society; although ageist attitudes vary within cohorts - The lack of knowledge and interaction - Younger people’s fears of their own future - Old age has been medicalized, so aging tends to be equated with poor health or disease (MEDICALIZATION = refers to the social and political process whereby more and more areas of life come under the authority and control of medicine)  Not all cultures view the type of changed behaviour that tends to accompany dementia in the same manner (Example: the Chinese view dementia as part of normal aging and not as a signal that the individual is ineligible for participation in social life; the Chinese society accepts these people) DIVERSITY IN AGING: SOCIOECONOMIC AND CLASS DIFFERENCES:  People who enjoy socioeconomic advantages tend to experience better health and live longer than others do  This fact is especially evident in middle age but it extends into old age, when individuals are no longer part of the work force  Economic disadvantages follows many people into old age  38% of all older unattached adults in Canada live below the low-income cutoff  The protection of living in families help seniors  Having few economic resources affects one’s everyday life in profound ways: everything from the type of house and neighbourhood you live in to the schools you attend, the food you eat, the people you associate with, the leisure activities and vacations you can afford, whether you have a car, etc… GENDER:  There are more elderly women than there are elderly men, and the gender imbalance increases in older age cohorts  Women live longer than men do partly because women are the hardier sex, biologically speaking, but social and economic reasons are also important  The female-male difference in the mortality rate (deaths per 1000 people in a population) is lower among more highly educated and wealthier people than among others partly because working class men often engage in dangerous jobs  Women are more likely to be widowed, not to remarry, and live along or in a nursing home in later life  Women tend to be grandparents for a longer period than men and are more likely to be poor in old age because of their lower earning power when they were younger and their savings have to cover a longer time  Men tend to die before their spouses do because they have shorter life expectancies and because they tend to marry women younger than they are  Men who outlive their wives are more likely to remarry because there are more unmarried women than men who are available as potential partners  More socially acceptable for men to marry younger women than it is for women to marry younger men  If they do not remarry, elderly men appear to be at greater risk of social isolation because they are less likely to maintain social support networks than women re ETHNICITY AND RACE:  Among Canadian seniors, there are more foreign-born individuals than there are in the younger population  The ethnocultural composition of older people population is heavily influenced by the immigrant polices that were in effect in the past; before, English and French were granted immigration and now more visible minority group members came to Canada  Aboriginal seniors comprise fewer than 5 percent of Canada’s total Aboriginal population because of high fertility rates and mortality rates APOCALYPTIC DEMOGRAPHY:  DEMOGRAPHY = the study of the characteristics of populations and the dynamics of population change  APOCALYPTIC DEMOGRAPHY = the belief that a demographic trend, such as population aging, has drastic negative consequence for society  Reduces the complex issue of an aging population to the notion that society cannot afford a growing percentage of elderly  Follows that we can and should dismantle or at least cut back on social services or else the country will go bankrupt  Draw inappropriate conclusions from nonfacts  We can afford better social services for the elderly because economic productivity is increasing and the proportion of young people is decreasing as old people are increasing  Ignores government statistics showing that fewer than half of Canada’s elderly population is well to do  Population aging accounts for only a small part of future health-care costs and will require little increase in public expenditures  Costs for Canada’s health care system are increasing, but mainly because of the rising price of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology rather than aging HEALTH AND OLD AGE:  With advancing age, about 77% of men and 85% of women aged 65 and over suffer from at least one chronic condition – a persistent physical or mental health problem  The most common chronic conditions are arthritis and rheumatism, eye problems, back problems, heart disease and diabetes  Such conditions do not necessarily interfere with day-to-day functioning  A functional disability exists when a health problem interferes with day-to-day functioning  About 1/3 of adults age 65+ experience restrictions in their daily activities because of health problems  Pain is a problem for many but certainly not all elderly adults  Mental or brain disorders are viewed as diseases by the medical profession  A correlation exists between mental and physical health; people in better physical health tend to enjoy better mental health  However, elderly adults do not have poorer mental health than members of younger age cohorts do  Those aged 75 and over are three times as likely as 18 and 19 year olds to score high on a sense of coherence  Self-esteem and feelings of mastery or control also seem to improve with age, peaking in middle age, followed by modest declines in later life  It is unclear why elderly adults often have such good psychological health  The social lives of seniors tend to be healthy and characterized by social integration  Those who are poor, frail and old are vulnerable to social isolation  Most are embedded in MODIFIED EXTENDED FAMILY networks characterized by mutual and close intergenerational ties, responsible filial behaviour and contact between the generations  According to the COMPRESSION OF MORBIDITY HYPOTHESIS, western industrialized nations are successfully postponing the age of onset of chronic disability  Many analysts think that eventually we will all be able to live relatively healthy lives until very shortly before death, when our bodies will deteriorate rapidly INEQUALITY, HEALTH, AND AGING: EDUCATION:  People with more education are able to avoid or postpone disability to a greater extent than those with less education, although education may be of less benefit once disability is present  The likelihood of remaining in good health was greater among men and women in the highest educational and income group
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