SOC101Y1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 17: Population Ageing

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23 Feb 2011
New Society: Chapter 17
Health and Aging
1.Challenging commonsense beliefs about health and aging
Life expectancy the number of years that the average person can expect to live
During and after the depression and WWII living & working conditions were often hard, and
services/benefits (health care, unemployment insurance, pensions) were limited/nonexistent
2 areas of sociology:
oThe sociology of health and illness
oThe sociology of aging
Aging tends to be linked to ill health health tends to be a major problem in later life, older
adults account for much of the illness, disability, and health care utilization in any society
2. Individual and population aging
People can now expect to live more than 20 yrs longer than if born in 1920 fact that almost
everyone can expect to live to old age distinguishes our era from earlier historical periods
Declines in the number and proportion of children in the population, the proportion of older
persons necessarily increases
Deaths in old age usually b/c of chronic degenerative diseases circulatory diseases, heart
disease, stroke cancer, respiratory diseases, & infectious diseases
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
Ageism prejudice based on age inclined to see old people as poor, frail, no interest in
sexual relations, being socially isolated, lonely, lacking abilities to work... etc. This speaks to
our treatment of older people as a social category and not necessarily to interpersonal
antagonism. It exists because:
oThe segregation of young and old groups in society
oLack of knowledge and interaction
oYounger peoples fears of their own future
Medicalization the social and political process whereby more and more areas of life come
under the authority and control of medicine
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Not all cultures view changed behaviour (i.e. dementia) in the elderly as negative Chinese see
it as a normal part of aging and not as a signal that the individual is ineligible for participation
on social life
3.Diversity in aging
a)Socioeconomic and class differences
People who enjoy socioeconomic advantages tend to experience better health and live
longer than others do
Economic disadvantage follows many people into old age having few economic
resources affects ones everyday life in profound ways the type of house you live in, the
food you eat, the people you associate with etc. All have important implications for
More elderly women than men - gender imbalances increases in older age groups
Women live longer than men b/c women are biologically the hardier sex & also social and
economic reasons are important
Female-male difference in mortality rate is lower among more highly educated and
wealthier people than among others b/c working class men tend to have more
dangerous jobs
Mortality rate deaths per 1000 people in a population
Women are more likely than men to:
oBe widowed
oNOT remarry
oLive alone or in a nursing home in later life
oBe grandparents for a longer period of time
oBe poor in old age
o Have more age peers in the same situation and t/f able to maintain their social
support networks into old age
c)Ethnicity and Race
Represents fundamental organizing principles of society that are pervasive, socially
constructed, and operate throughout the life course
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Most foreign born seniors immigrated to Canada when they were younger the
ethnocultural composition of our older adult population is heavily influenced by the
immigration policies that were in effect in the past
Reserves see young adults leave for educational and employment opportunities in urban
settings most do not return
Future generations of Canadian seniors will be much more ethnically and racially
diverse than they are today
d)Apocalyptic demography
Demography - the study of characteristics of populations and the dynamics of
population change
Apocalyptic demography the belief that a demographic trend (i.e. population aging)
has drastic negative consequences for society reduces the complex issue of an aging
population to the notion that society cannot afford a growing % of elderly people
increasing proportion of elderly adults places a huge strain on govt-financed services
so the govt debt & deficits rise to dangerous levels
3 problems:
1.We can afford better social services for the elderly (economic productivity is
increasing over time)
2.This approach ignores govt statistics showing that fewer than half of Canadas
elderly pop is well to do
3.Population aging accounts for only a small part of future health-care costs and
will require little increase in public expenditure
Apocalyptic demography does not withstand a careful review of the evidence
4.Health and old age
Chronic condition - a persistent physical/mental health problem (arthritis, eye problems,
back problems, heart disease, diabetes etc.) do not necessarily interfere w/ day to day
Functional disability a long-term restriction or lack of ability to perform various activities
of daily living b/c of a health condition/health problem
Pain - important area of physical health that is not captured when examining diseases, chronic
conditions, and functional disability
Mental/brain disorders viewed as diseases by medical profession
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