STARTING POINTS: CHAPTER 8 - AGEISM
Functionalism view of ageism
- Society is made up of supporting parts that work together efficiently.
- Elain Cumming & William Henry: Disengagement theory
o Elderly people are weakest members of population. Elderly people should give up
job for the benefit of themselves and society.
- Main point: This replacement of old people is required for society‟s effectiveness
Critical Theory view of ageism
- Disagree with functionalist that exclusion of elderly people is good for society.
o Critic: Many elderly individuals remain active and refuse to retire.
Therefore, they are usually pushed out of workforce into retirement.
- Main point: A form of inequality exercised by middle aged people for their own benefit.
- Young and old lacks organization and power to influence compared to middle aged.
Symbolic Interactionism view of ageism
- How we symbolize elderly people and enact aging in society?
- Main Point:
Satisfaction with aging means rejecting the definition of old age as disabling
- Havighurst and Albrecht: Activity theory
o People take on new roles as they age
o Find new purpose and self-concept, greater satisfaction in life
o Relates role-play to self-identity and psychological well-being
- Media portrays elderly people differently.
o Women disappear from media as they age more compared to men
o Double standard that disadvantages women Feminist Theories
o To women means losing youth and glamour, dreaded
o Less concern to men
- Ginn and Arber: people are subject to different expectations as young, middle-aged and
- Today, men and women lead similar lives but careers are likely to be in diff. sectors.
However, women are at particular risk of living alone with low income in senior years
due to spouses or partners dying earlier.
- More domestic duties are social responsibilities for older women.
o Main point: Childhood is a cultural invention, social construction.
o Before 16 century, most children lived in an adult world, children not divided by
age in schools, age was relatively unimportant
o 16 century, view of children as different from adults. Viewed as pets, toys,
sources of amusement for parents. Growth and schooling and introduction of
child-labour and child-protection laws. Now, pre-adult developmental needs to be
fulfilled before they could enter adult life.
o Today, children are more segregated from adult society due to long periods of
education. Does not prepare children for adult life.
o Now, new cultural label is created “adolescence” which lies between childhood
and adulthood. It is socially constructed.
- Critics: Childhood was seen differently before the 17 century and children have always
constituted a separate group.
- Hendrick, 1992 critic: Aries using unrepresentative data, relying too much on writings of
moralists and educationalists. Youth: A time of risk-taking
- Youth more willing to take risk than middle-aged and old people
o Less to lose than middle age people
o Old people are most cautious.
- David Matza:
o Youth tend to drift into delinquency (committing crime) without strong
motivation to do harm, merely armed with „techniques of neutralization‟ (excuses
o This drift is common and tendency to leave delinquency as they become young
adults is also common due to adult responsibilities.
- Travis Hirschi:
o Why individuals conform to norms and why they break them?
o Individuals commit delinquency/crime due to lack of attachment to social
convention (nothing to lose attitude)
o Four social bonds:
Attachment: To parents and peers
Commitment: Time and effort spent to build a good reputation
Involvement: Activities that support conventional interests of society
(sports, music). No time to commit delinquent or crime
Belief: Laws of society and institutions that enforce the laws. Age Group Relations
- Main Idea: Parents will serve their children; when they become parents themselves,
these children will return the favor.
- Not so simple:
o Not every couple is willing to follow this agenda. Why?
Young people are not a source of benefits for parents and grandparents