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Starting Points CH8 & Reading Sociology P8.docx

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Lecture 5 Ageism Starting Points Chapter 8  Cultural meanings are specific to times and places making it more difficult for different generations to understand each other o Ex. young look forward to better days, elders look backward (to better days)  Law tries to protect people thought to be vulnerable (young and elderly) o Marriage age floor, legal drinking age, legal age of sexual consent  Ageism: all types of prejudice or discrimination against members of society based on an individual‟s age, whether old or young Functionalism  REMINDER: society is like a well-oiled machine of supporting parts that work together as an efficient, productive whole  THEREFORE Society is as strong as its weakest members Disengagement Theory (Elaine Cumming and William Henry):  Elderly people are displaced from positions of power and influence as they are the weakest members due to physical and mental decline  Withdraw to edges of society, preparing for death  CRITICISM: depicts humans as robots to financial institution that voluntarily deliver themselves to dustbin of later life o Many elderly refuse to retire o Employers‟ rules push them out of workforce o Even after retirement, many elderly stay active if opportunities in family and wider community allow Retirement:  Replacing old with new  required for efficient, globally competitive economy o In ideas, in workers  Moment of recognition for retiree Critical Theory  Ageism does not serve society as a whole; serves middle-aged (20-60) people to further their own interests  When elderly people disengage, it is often because of other people‟s wishes  Age groups compete to enlarge its share of society‟s resources o Disadvantage to young and old due to lack of organization and influence o Interests of young and old often ignored  Assumptions of aging lead directly to financial dependence of elderly on rest of society o NOT TRUE because only those with physical and mental problems require the assistance Symbolic Interactionism  REMINDER: How we symbolize elderly and enact aging in society; how socially constructed definitions of age and aging affect the experience of aging  Age is a state of mind shaped by labels applied by society  Satisfaction with aging means rejecting the definition of old age as disabling  Media portrayals of elderly reflect and reinforce stereotypes o Causes celebrity women to disappear from media as they age faster than men  DOUBLE STANDARD for women and sex: younger man rarely paired with significantly older woman (viewed as strange), but older man can be paired with younger women Activity Theory (Havighurst and Albrecht)  People take on new roles, new activities as they age  Continued activity: o preserves a sense of continuity o helps people preserve their self-concept o contributes to greater life satisfaction  Maintaining high activity = more successful aging  Considered symbolic-interactionist theory because it relates role-play to self-identity and psychological well-being Feminist Theories  For women, aging is loss of youth and glamour  Women at a particular risk of finding themselves living alone on a insufficient income in senior years o Women earn less than men, less likely to qualify for private pension o Women tend to outlive their male spouse  Women have more domestic and social responsibilities o Kin-keeping: taking care of chidren, preserving family traditions and identity, keeping family members connected  Feminization of poverty: family caregiving roles of women at younger ages often remove women from workforce, limiting pension benefits and lifetime income  poverty at older ages Classic Studies: Centuries of Childhood (Philip Aries)  “Childhood” is a social construction from late medieval Europe and perfected in industrial times  Age was insignificant before industrial times; CHILDHOOD was nonexistent o Children of poor families became apprentices to adults o Lived in an adult world with adult concerns; learned to behave like adults o Few children ever went to school (apprenticeship or military instead) o Schools were NOT divided by age th  16 Century: Emergence of childhood as distinct age o Children viewed as pets, sources of amusement o Growth of schooling, introduction of child labour and protection laws  Segregation of children from adults made people view them as different beings with pre-adult needs to fulfill before entering adult life  Increasing schooling = increasing segregation from adults o Social norms, expectation, practices created within age-based communities formed in school o Less prepared forthdult life  “Adolescence” created in 19 century to account for period between increasingly different childhood and adulthood o Marked by hormonal changes and emergence of secondary sexual characteristics, and possibly greater emotional instability  TREND: as we begin to live longer, there may be a need to further “invent” age groups Youth: A Time of Risk-taking  Youth more willing to take risks and most reckless o Risky behaviours (dangerous driving, unsafe sex) deviant to adults o Risk-taking is commonplace and ordinary o Perpetrators and victims are often the same people o Largely defined by age and sex  older more so than younger youth, boys more than girls Matza: Delinquency and Drift  Youth “drift” into delinquency without a strong motivation to do harm and weak excuses that morally justify the “drift” easier (techniques of neutralization)  Delinquents share same values and attitudes as non-delinquents and employ techniques of neutralization to justify breaking rules Travis Hirschi  ASSUMPTION: Everyone has the potential to become delinquent, but social controls (NOT moral values) prevent this from happening through preservation of law and order  Teens have low “stake in conformity”  nothing (reputation, career, mortgage) to lose; nothing that they are working towards to keep them out of trouble  Delinquents defy moral codes because of their weakened attachment to social convention 4 Social bonds promoting conformity Attachment  Interest in/attachment to others  especially parent and peers Commitment  School, homework, paid work  Invest time in reputation and property to avoid criminal actions Involvement (in activities)  Involvement in activities that support conventional interests of society – music, sports, etc Belief (in laws)  Belief in the laws of society Age Group Relations  Age groups occupied with their own immediate concerns o Old – health, finding new purpose in life post-paid work retirement o Middle Aged – marriage, career, paying bills, care for children and parents o Young – finding personal identity, finding life goals, developing relationships, enduring long period of education and economic dependency, conflicts with parents and peers  Age groups sometimes ally themselves against a common generational enemy (grandparents + grandchildren vs. parents) o SOCIAL DISTANCE reflects alliances and coalitions that cross generations  Change in balance of power of groups  less children, more seniors o HISTORICALLY – social resources (wealth, respect, obedience) flow upward from young to old; o NOW: parents serve children who serve their children (social resources flow down)  Prolonged education makes it impossible for young to benefit upper generations  “flight from parenthood”: worldwide reduction in fertility due to parenthood being a NET COST  less reason to put hard-earned time, effort, money into raising kids  Resistance to this social contract found in ethnocultural groups that wish to remain traditional One World, Many Societies: Rethinking China‟s One-Child Policy  Shanghai has lowest birthrate in country  population is getting “too old, too fast”  One-child policy: couples can have 2 children if both husband and wife are only child  Many couples (only-child people) may be unable to support even 1 child due to burdening care of aging parents without siblings to share the load Changing Age Relations  Baby boom and immigration lead to surge of childbearing o With immigrants, most were of childbearing age and came from countries with higher fertility norms  Rapid assimilation of immigrants and economic hardship IS resulting in baby bust  Proportion of elderly in Canada rising  low rates of immigration, high rates of youthful EMIgration  Median Age: point that divides a population into two groups of equal size based on age  Alberta is Canada‟s youngest province o More migrated youth looking for well-paid work o Northern Alberta draws young (mostly male) adults for work o Only province where men outnumber women  Maritimes and Prairies are aging  losing young population to other provinces (AB, BC, ON) with more work opportunities  Territories have lower proportion of older adults o High fertility rates o High rates of youthful immigration (for resource-related jobs) o Lower life expectancy  difficult life  many people are impoverished, living in crowded housing  Aboriginal elders remain an important part of community, providing link to traditions for youth  Dependency Ratio: proportion of people who are considered dependents (<15, >65) compared to people 15-64 (considered working age)  Increasing dependency ratio = increase elderly population = possible medical & economic crisis with intergenerational conflict Classic Studies: Children of the Great Depression (Glen Elder)  Glen H. Elder believed: aging is an accumulation of experiences and influences; what happens in early life has consequences for later outcomes  Different generations are socialized into different contexts which can lead to intergenerational disagreements  Studied 11 year old Californian children living through Great Depression  Separated statistically into 2 groups: Deprived and Non-deprived  Deprived: families lost >35% of income due to economic crisis o Sudden financial loss altered family dynamic o Mothers took power over fathers; assuming role as decision maker, providing emotional support o Teenage sons worked for pay, developing independence and self-importance o Daughters expected to take over some chores; stronger socialization into homemaker role so more likely to marry and have children early o Exposed to adult world earlier and thus matured sooner than non-deprived  Dated earlier, going out more at night o Redistribution of work in families created more equal sharing of power o Financial effects of hardship lessened in the long run by deprived children becoming useful and successful  Produced favourable personal traits (boys  intelligence; girls  physical attractiveness; both  easy temperament)  Early deprivation more detrimental to girls‟ self-concept than boys  CRITICISM: results limited to the cohort may not apply to other ages; cohort at an optimum age to minimize effects of Depression  DEMONSTRATES aging occurs in families and societies and so socio-historical (when and where) contexts change the experience of aging Relations between Young and Old  First experiences of cross-generational relations learned at home  Small size when young = powerlessness = symbol of dependence and vulnerability  Children CAN still have power over parents o Parents have larger size and power o Children have stronger resistance (as do most disadvantaged groups)  Less to lose, more time to waste  employ terrorist tactics (chaos, noise, subversion (rebellion))  Force parents into giving in for temporary peace and tranquility  Parents feel responsibility over children to see them succeed in life  make strategic deals to ensure successful development while keeping peace  Like children, elderly people can capitalize off of guilt to encourage children o Less likely to use terror tactics like children, though  Elderly more obedient than younger children o Do not want to abandon their independent lives o Have their own resources  may even be source of growth for their children o Already experienced being squeezed by young children at one end and elderly parents at other, more capable of empathy than younger Age in School and Workplace Schools  Age distinction links to authority (teachers  give out homework rewards, punishments; students do homework, gain rewards, avoid punishment)) Workplace  Seniority and rank closely related  but looser than family and school relations  Younger workers take orders from older and then do the same when they advance  Some classes of workers younger than others o Ex. secretaries and admin older and given orders by constantly turning over professional staff  Problem of respect for age or respect for presumed experience  People who fail to learn/gain inside information slow down their careers  Francis Ianni: A Family Business – trust the nephew, with economics degree, with family business of organized crime, or go with uncle who‟s proven his character, responsibility and reliability in the past o Argument: It‟s the uncle‟s time o Argument: Nephew has more up-to-date ideas Classic Studies: Meat Streets: Youth Crime and Homelessness (Hagan & McCarthy)  Examine how and why youths in Toronto and Vancouver leave home for life on the street  Risks facing youth coming to live on streets o Parental abuse (some violent) and neglect, usually in poor, low employment neighbourhoods o Performance drops in school adding to conflict with parents  drop out o With little social capital and skills, youth turn to streets after leaving home and school  Crime is a survival strategy to meet basic daily needs  Criminal capital: knowledge and skills for criminal activity, beliefs and definitions that legitimize offending; gained through social networking with other street kids  Effect of faulty parenting, anomie, differential association on developing criminality  Cities‟ approaches to street youth ineffective  youth in a “revolving door” between jail and streets  Where street youth receive social assistance to meet daily needs, youth crime rates are lower  Hagan and McCarthy‟s study fails to recommend changes  This study is contrast to Elder‟s  children do not always benefit from adversity o In Elder‟s study, children understood Great Depression was beyond their family‟s control o In this study, children may not realize that or cannot accept it as the reason for their parents‟ neglect of them Age and Crime  Few young people who commit delinquent acts become serious, adult criminals  Few young people who experiment with drugs graduate to adult drug addiction  Important transition occurs to turn them away from these tendencies Jackson Toby  Development of stake in conformity = weakened tendency towards crime and addiction o Due to education/occupation/relationships/PURPOSE in life  Social Control Theory: we are all inclined to break rules, but less inclined if we accept the legitimacy of social control  Engagement in crime may be response to conflicts with parents, teachers, adults of authority or to fit into a group Age and Mental Health  While old people often develop depression, they are more happy with life than young people  Happiness depends on one‟s expectations  lower your expectations and you‟ll be happier  Seniors today are more economically secure than seniors in the past  Unhappiness, anxiety, and depression (even suicide) more of a problem with adolescents associated with heavy, societal and cultural pressures to succeed in their difficult transition to independent adulthood Age and Physical Health  Poor physical health is a poor indicator of faulty age-relations, or ageism o Health negligence (ex. poor nutrition, supervision, preventative health care) affect all members of a family (not just young and old)  Today‟s seniors have better health than previous generations due to better lifestyles and health care  Seniors are still less healthy than youth  many seniors have chronic disease  Elderly women suffer more from arthritis and hypertension --> live longer and have higher anxiety  Higher prevalence of health problems in seniors taxes the healthcare system especially with increasing number of seniors in Canada  Canada‟s healthcare is universal  use of health care services did NOT vary based on social class  Link between disability and aging is WEAK
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