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Chapter 6

Reading for Week 5. Book: Social Problems, Chapter: 6

Course Code

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SP6: Age Groups Relations
Ppl practice ageism; direct or indirect discrimination against ppl based on their age.
Everyone ages, everyone will experience it.
Cross cultural Attitudes to Aging
Usually; age brought respect, authority, etc. Modernization/industrialization brought ability for
ppl to move on their own, less available and rely on parents.
Western cultures reveres youth, other cultures revere elderly as wise.
Stereotypes tend to be wrong; 1-2% of 65-74 live in institutions. Media creates self-fulfilling
prophecy of seniors.
Life Course
Glen Elder. Life course rests on 5 assumptions;
1.Human development and aging are lifelong processes (understand the ‘developmental
2.The developmental antecedents and consequences of life transitions, events and behaviour
patterns very according to their timing in a persons life
3.Lives are lived interdependently and socio-historical influences are expressed through this
network of shared relationships.
4.The life course of individuals is embedded in and shaped by the historical times and
places they experience over their lifetime
5.Individuals construct their own life courses through the choices and actions they take
within the opportunities of history and social circumstances (though 4 is important, we
ultimately have choices)
The life course is a patterned sequence of experiences over time, subject to social,

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historical and cultural influences. There are expected life courses.
Basic aspect of the sociology of aging
Senescence; biological process of aging, after achieving peak of physical and mental abilities.
More interest in childhood than in later adulthood, but ppl are getting healthier; and the elderly
have more than doubled from 5% in 1901 to 12% in this century.
Canadas age pyramid; diamond shape, with a small base among the youngest groups, spreading
out gradually as age groups increase in size until ages 45-55, before tapering off into a high thin
peak around 80-90.
Age stratification
Material and psychological effects. Societies w/ high proportion of old or young populations will
consume a very high % of national spending on healthcare or education, housing, etc.
Pops with large workforces are able to invest.
Thus inc elderly pop means increasing proportion of ppl needing health care, and being useless.
Theoretical Perspectives:
Structural Functionalism
Society is only as strong as weakest members, elderly.
Disengagement theory (Cummings, Henry); as ppl age, they voluntarily and normally remove
themselves from activities and jobs, easing their previously active lifestyle. Serves purposes;
empties job positions, replacement of old ideas, mindsets. Cold and cynical theory, but very
effective for society.
Conflict Theory
Ageism; form of inequality exercized by dominant group to further own interests.
Discrimination of the dominant age group over elderly and young; excluding them from jobs.
Disengagement occurs due to other’s wishes, usually not ones.
Symbolic Interactionism
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