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SOC102H1 (285)
Chapter 6

Chapter 6 of Social Problems

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Lorne Tepperman

Chapter 6 Age Group Relations Introduction Includes refusing jobs to qualified and willing candidates because of stereotypic attitudes towards people young or old who violate the age norms and expectations of our society Cross Cultural Attitudes to Aging In earlier times, advanced age = respect, authority, and attention from others As western populations industrialized, children could more readily strike out on their own as earners; no longer had to rely on the help or good opinion of their fathers and mothers Young people made themselves less available or willing to provide help to aging parents Began during the 19 and 10 century in the West, and second half of the 20 century in the East Members of our culture tend to fear gaining, with its concomitant physical decline to death One common belief is that most seniors are frail and ailing and that the majority need full-time care in nursing homes or other institutional settings However, only 1.4% of men and 1.7% of women (65-74) live in a special-care institution; rest at home Another common belief is that most elderly people are senile or rapidly headed in that direction However, most keep their cognitive and perceptual functions for many years; Alzheimers affects only 3% of people aged 65-74; 50% after people pass 80 We learn negative attitudes towards aging and older people from the mass media and from jokes and cartoons The media create a self-fulfilling prophecy in which elderly begin to think and behave as people expect The Idea of a Life Course Life course is a patterned sequence of individual experiences over time, subject to varied social, historical and cultural influences There is, in each society, an expected life course; the gap between the life courses we expect and those we experience may cause much distress Glen Elder notes the life course approach rests on 5 main assumptions 1. Human development and aging are lifelong processes a. As people get older, their lives change b. At each stage, certain concerns become supreme and others become trivial c. Certain important life events typically are concentrated in certain periods of a persons life d. Social institutions are gatekeepers; divide and regulate transitions -> school, marriage, jobs etc e. We cannot understand the ideas, actions, and beliefs of people at any given age without some understanding of how they got to that age their developmental pathway f. Longitudinal studies are the best ways of understanding all people 2. The developmental antecedents and consequences of life transitions, events, and behaviour patterns vary according to their timing in a persons life a. It makes a difference at what age you make a key life transition (whether you get a divorce at 25 or 55) - > affects how people view themselves because self-image is often based on a comparison with others b. Generally, the sequence of the major changes in our lives has an important impact on the experience we have and people we meet 3. Lives are lived interdependently and socio-historical influences are expressed through this network of shared relationships a. We may find ourselves entering new statuses because of the actions of others, not through our own choosing (becoming a grandma because your daughter had a daughter early) b. Our degree of preparation for new roles and statuses is important for how we experience and perform our key roles and statuses 4. The life course of individuals is embedded in and shaped by the historical times and places they experience over their lifetime a. Eg. Coming of college age means something different depending on the time period b. The historical period affects our opportunities and the choices we are likely to make; and these will affect other opportunities and choices throughout our lives 5. Individuals construct their own life courses through the choices and actions they take within the opportunities of history and social circumstances a. Within any social category or historical period, we will find variations in human lives, because people are free to choose different paths b. People have a fairly predictable sequence of life experiences as they move from 20 to 50 to 80 and they feel uncomfortable when they deviate from that sequence Basic Aspects of the Sociology of Aging Senescence: the biological aging of an organism as it lives beyond its maturity, usually accompanied by chemical and organic changes However, exactly at what age and in what form the decline takes place varies widely from one person to another Today, older people can look forward to a longer and healthier old age than in the past With an increased interest in childhood, there had been a decreased interest in later adulthood when their numbers have been increasingly dramatically 1901, only 5% was 65+; over the past century, this fraction has more than doubled to 12% Age pyramid: a graphic depiction of the age composition of a population, broken down by age and sex; pyramid- shaped if the birth rate is high but otherwise more rectangular Canadas diamond shaped: 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 ages 80-90; reflects a population undergoing change Age Stratification Age stratification theory focuses on the way social structures affect individual aging and the stratification, or vertical segregation, of people by age It is concerned with the segregation and mistreatment of certain age groups Because of this, aging and ageism pose various problems for society, especially as increasing percentages of the world and Canadian populations are getting older 1. Ageism is repellent to a society like ours that is pledged to judging people by what they do rather than who they are 2. Ageism poses practical problems for the victims of this discrimination a. ageism has both material and psychological effects i. materially limits peoples opportunities to get the jobs and incomes they may need to survive ii. psychologically - ageism makes people feel rejected, excluded and degraded b. they feel they are less than they want and need to be as human beings generally, populations with a high proportion of very old or very young people consume a high proportion of their national economy in the form of supports for dependent populations: health, education, welfare, housing the increased proportion of elderly people means 1. elderly will need costly care and support 2. An increasing proportion of people who are considered useless and held in low regard Theoretical Perspectives on Aging Theory Main points Structural functionalism all elements in society are interrelated disengagement theory accounts for the relegation of older people to the sidelines of society retirement serves several functions, especially the re-invigoration of social institutions Conflict theory conflict and change are basic features of social life age-related discrimination does not benefit society elderly people do not disengage, they are pushed out of the workforce the most powerful groups in society command resources and are the decision- makers Symbolic interactionism social life involves continued interaction socially constructed definitions of age and aging affect ones experience of growing old people take on new roles as they age (they do not disengage) media portrayals reflect and reinforce societys stereotypes about older people Feminist theory aging
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