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Flashcards in Chapter 12: Stratification by Age Deck (35):
1

Age Stratification

It is understandable that all societies have some system of age stratification that associates certain social roles with distinct periods in life.
-Some of this age differentiation seems inevitable; it would make little sense to send young children off to war, or to expect most older citizens to handle physically demanding tasks, such as loading freight at shipyards.
-However, as is the case with stratification by gender, in the United States age stratification goes far beyond the physical constraints on human beings at different ages

2

Minority or Subordinate status: Age

Older people experience unequal treatment in employment and may face prejudice and discrimination.

Older people share physical characteristics that distinguish them from younger people. In addition, their cultural preferences and leisure-time activities often differ from those of the rest of society.

Membership in this disadvantaged group is involuntary.

Older people have a strong sense of group solidarity, as is reflected in the growth of senior citizens’ centers, retirement communities, and advocacy organizations.

Older people generally are married to others of comparable age.

3

Gerontology

-The scientific study of the sociological and psychological aspects of aging and the problems of the aged.
-Gerontologists rely heavily on sociological principles and theories to explain the impact of aging on the individual and society.
-They also draw on psychology, anthropology, physical education, counseling, and medicine in their study of the aging process. Two influential views of aging—disengagement theory and activity theory—can best be understood in terms of the sociological perspectives of functionalism and interactionism, respectively.

4

Functionalist Perspective

-After studying elderly people in good health and relatively comfortable economic circumstances, Elaine Cumming and William Henry (1961) introduced their disengagement theory
-In keeping with the functionalist perspective, disengagement theory emphasizes that passing social roles on from one generation to another ensures social stability.

-According to this theory, the approach of death forces people to drop most of their social roles—including those of worker, volunteer, spouse, hobby enthusiast, and even reader.
-Younger members of society then take on these functions. The aging person, it is held, withdraws into an increasing state of inactivity while preparing for death.

5

Disengagement Theory

which implicitly suggests that society and the aging individual mutually sever many of their relationships.
-older people find satisfaction in withdrawal from society,

6

Interactionist Perspective

Often seen as an opposing approach to disengagement theory, activity theory suggests that those elderly people who remain active and socially involved will be best adjusted.
-Proponents of this perspective acknowledge that a person age 70 may not have the ability or desire to perform various social roles that he or she had at age 40. --Yet they contend that old people have essentially the same need for social interaction as any other group.

-The improved health of older people—sometimes overlooked by social scientists—has strengthened the arguments of activity theorists.
-Illness and chronic disease are no longer quite the scourge of the elderly that they once were.
-The recent emphasis on fitness, the availability of better medical care, greater control of infectious diseases, and the reduction of fatal strokes and heart attacks have combined to mitigate the traumas of growing old.
-As we saw at the beginning of the chapter, Captain Sully Sullenberger is certainly both physically and mentally fit.

7

Activity Theory

suggests that those elderly people who remain active and socially involved will be best adjusted.

8

Labeling Perspective

-“the elderly”? Labeling theorists, who study the way reality is constructed through our culture and social interactions, have noted that recently, our society has begun to reconsider what makes a person old.
-As early as 1975, social scientists were suggesting that old age should be defined not in terms of how old one is, but in terms of how long one can be expected to live.
-As life expectancy lengthens, then, the age at which one is labeled old rises.
-Some have suggested that the threshold of old age should begin in the last 10 or 15 years of a person’s expected life.

9

Conflict Perspective

-Conflict theorists have criticized both disengagement theorists and activity theorists for failing to consider the impact of social structure on aging patterns.
- Neither approach, they say, questions why social interaction must change or decrease in old age. In addition, they often ignore the impact of social class on the lives of elderly people.

-The privileged upper class generally enjoys better health and vigor and less likelihood of dependency in old age. Affluence cannot forestall aging indefinitely, but it can soften the economic hardships people face in later years. --Although pension plans, retirement packages, and insurance benefits may be developed to assist older people, those whose wealth allows them access to investment funds can generate the greatest income for their later years.

-In contrast, the working class often faces greater health hazards and a greater risk of disability; aging is particularly difficult for those who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses.
-Working-class people also depend more heavily on Social Security benefits and private pension programs.

10

Aging Worldwide

Today the world’s population is evenly divided between those people who are under age 28 and those who are over age 28. By the middle of the 21st century, the median age will have risen to 40. Even though the United Nations held the first world assembly on aging in 1982, few people gave much thought to this prospect of whole populations—that is, nations—growing older until the 1990s. By 2015, the world had more than 617 million people age 65 and over. They constituted 8.5 percent of the world’s population. By 2050, nearly twice that proportion, or 16.7 percent of the world’s population, will be over 65.

11

Aging, Japanese Style

-Indeed, Japan is struggling to confront the challenges posed by the world’s most rapidly aging population.
- For generations, Japanese families have lived with and cared for their aging parents and grandparents.
-But this tradition of living under the same roof with one’s elders is fading as more and more couples and even single adults strike out on their own. Hence the need for the wired hotpots.

Compared to the United States and Canada, Japan is less well equipped to deal with this social phenomenon. Assisted living, in-home services, and nursing homes are all much less common in Japan than they are in North America.

The aging of Japan’s workforce has forced government officials to reexamine the nation’s policy toward immigrant workers.
-Although work opportunities dried up during the global economic downturn, the government does not want to lose this small group of immigrants, given Japan’s looming labor shortage.
-So policymakers are devising programs that will allow immigrant workers to stay and will encourage their countrymen to join them when Japan’s economy rebounds.

12

Role Transitions: Midlife crisis

The next transitional period, the midlife transition, typically begins at about age 40. Men and women often experience a stressful period of self-evaluation, commonly known as the midlife crisis, in which they realize that they have not achieved basic goals and ambitions and have little time left to do so.

13

Conflict Perspective

-Conflict theorists have criticized both disengagement theorists and activity theorists for failing to consider the impact of social structure on aging patterns.
- Neither approach, they say, questions why social interaction must change or decrease in old age. In addition, they often ignore the impact of social class on the lives of elderly people.

-The privileged upper class generally enjoys better health and vigor and less likelihood of dependency in old age. Affluence cannot forestall aging indefinitely, but it can soften the economic hardships people face in later years. --Although pension plans, retirement packages, and insurance benefits may be developed to assist older people, those whose wealth allows them access to investment funds can generate the greatest income for their later years.

-In contrast, the working class often faces greater health hazards and a greater risk of disability; aging is particularly difficult for those who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses.
-Working-class people also depend more heavily on Social Security benefits and private pension programs.

14

Aging Worldwide

Today the world’s population is evenly divided between those people who are under age 28 and those who are over age 28. By the middle of the 21st century, the median age will have risen to 40. Even though the United Nations held the first world assembly on aging in 1982, few people gave much thought to this prospect of whole populations—that is, nations—growing older until the 1990s. By 2015, the world had more than 617 million people age 65 and over. They constituted 8.5 percent of the world’s population. By 2050, nearly twice that proportion, or 16.7 percent of the world’s population, will be over 65.

15

Aging, Japanese Style

-Indeed, Japan is struggling to confront the challenges posed by the world’s most rapidly aging population.
- For generations, Japanese families have lived with and cared for their aging parents and grandparents.
-But this tradition of living under the same roof with one’s elders is fading as more and more couples and even single adults strike out on their own. Hence the need for the wired hotpots.

Compared to the United States and Canada, Japan is less well equipped to deal with this social phenomenon. Assisted living, in-home services, and nursing homes are all much less common in Japan than they are in North America.

16

Role Transitions: Midlife crisis

The next transitional period, the midlife transition, typically begins at about age 40. Men and women often experience a stressful period of self-evaluation, commonly known as the midlife crisis, in which they realize that they have not achieved basic goals and ambitions and have little time left to do so.

17

The Sandwich Generation

During the late 1990s social scientists focused on the sandwich generation—adults who simultaneously try to meet the competing needs of their parents and their children. That is, caregivingPage 291 goes in two directions:
to children, who even as young adults may still require significant direction, and
to aging parents, whose health and economic problems may demand intervention by their adult children. By 2010, 13 million Americans were caring for both their children and their parents.

Like the role of caring for children, the role of caring for aging parents falls disproportionately on women. Overall, women provide 66 percent of the care their parents receive, and even more as the demands of the role grow more intense and time-consuming. Increasingly, middle-aged women and younger are finding themselves on the “daughter track,” as their time and attention are diverted by the needs of their aging mothers and fathers

18

Adjusting to Retirement

Retirement is a rite of passage that marks a critical transition from one phase of a person’s life to another. Typically, symbolic events are associated with this rite of passage, such as retirement gifts, a retirement party, and special moments on the last day on the job.

19

Phases of Retirement

Preretirement, a period of anticipatory socialization as the person prepares for retirement.

The near phase, when the person establishes a specific departure date from his or her job.

The honeymoon phase, an often euphoric period in which the person pursues activities that he or she never had time for before.

The disenchantment phase, in which retirees feel a sense of letdown or even depression as they cope with their new lives, which may include illness or poverty.

The reorientation phase, which involves the development of a more realistic view of retirement alternatives.

The stability phase, a period in which the person has learned to deal with life after retirement in a reasonable and comfortable fashion.

The termination phase, which begins when the person can no longer engage in basic, day-to-day activities such as self-care and housework.

20

Race & Ethnicity: Retirement

the experience of retirement varies according to gender, race, and ethnicity.
-White males are most likely to benefit from retirement wages, as well as to have participated in a formal retirement preparation program.
-As a result, anticipatory socialization for retirement is most complete for White men.
-In contrast, members of racial and ethnic minority groups—especially African Americans—are more likely to exit the paid labor force through disability than through retirement. Because of their comparatively lower incomes and smaller savings, men and women from racial and ethnic minority groups work intermittently after retirement more often than older Whites.

21

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities

With recent improvements in health care, older Americans have gained new choices in where to live. Today, rather than residing in nursing homes or planned retirement communities, many of them congregate in areas that have gradually become informal centers for senior citizens. Social scientists have dubbed such areas naturally occurring retirement communities

22

Death and Dying

Despite its popular appeal, the five-stage theory of dying has been challenged. Observers often cannot substantiate these stages. With medical advances, dying now tends to be a much longer process than it was when Kübler-Ross did her research a half-century ago. Moreover, research suggests that each person declines in his or her own way. Thus, one should not expect— much less counsel—a person to approach death in any particular way. Cross-culturally, the variation in approaches is even more marked.

23

Ageism

Physician Robert Butler (1990) became concerned about 50 years ago when he learned that a housing development near his home in metropolitan Washington, D.C., barred the elderly. Butler coined the term ageism to refer to prejudice and discrimination based on a person’s age.

24

hospice care

introduced in London, England, in 1967, is founded on this concept. Hospice workers seek to improve the quality of a dying person’s last days by offering comfort and by helping the person to remain at home, or in a homelike setting at a hospital or other special facility, until the end.

25

The 'Graying of America'

Compared with the rest of the population, the elderly are more likely to be female than male. Men tend to have higher death rates than women at every age. By old age, women outnumber men by a ratio of 3 to 2. The gap widens with advancing age, so that among the oldest old, the ratio is 5 to 2.

The elderly are also more likely than others to be White: about 80 percent of the elderly are White and non-Hispanic. Although this segment of the population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, the higher death rates of racial and ethnic minorities, together with the continuing immigration of younger Latinos and Asians, is likely to keep it more White than the nation as a whole.

26

Aging: Wealth and Income

There is significant variation in wealth and poverty among the nation’s older people. Some individuals and couples find themselves poor in part because of fixed pensions and skyrocketing health care costs (see Chapter 17, Module 53). Nevertheless, as a group, older people in the United States are neither homogeneous nor poor. The typical elderly person enjoys a standard of living that is much higher now than at any point in the nation’s past. Class differences among the elderly remain evident, but tend to narrow somewhat: those older people who enjoyed middle-class incomes while younger tend to remain better off after retirement, but less so than before

27

Competition in the labor force

Even more remarkable is the shift of older workers to full-time employment. In 2002, for the first time, more older people were working full-time than part-time. This trend has continued through the recession that began in 2008. Older workers face high unemployment rates, but more and more have continued to seek work, perhaps to offset losses to their retirement savings

28

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA),

went into effect in 1968, was passed to protect workers who are age 40 and older from being fired because of their age and replaced with younger workers, who would presumably receive lower salaries.

29

The Elderly: Emergence of a Collective Consciousness

-The largest organization representing the nation’s elderly is the AARP, founded in 1958 by a retired school principal who was having difficulty getting insurance because of age prejudice.
-Many of the AARP’s services involve discounts and insurance for its 40 million members (43 percent of Americans age 50 and older), but the organization is also a powerful lobbying group.
- Recognizing that many elderly people are still gainfully employed, it has dropped its full name, American Association of Retired Persons

30

"Right to Die"

The issue of physician-assisted suicide is but one aspect of the larger debate in the United States and other countries over the ethics of suicide and euthanasia. The term euthanasia has been defined as the “act of bringing about the death of a hopelessly ill and suffering person in a relatively quick and painless way for reasons of mercy”

31

Applying Sociology: "Right to die"

Many societies are known to have practiced senilicide— “killing of the aged”—because of extreme difficulties in providing basic necessities such as food and shelter. In a study of the treatment of elderly people in 41 nonindustrialized societies, Anthony Glascock (1990) found some form of “death-hastening” behavior in 21 of them. Killing of elderly people was evident in 14 of the societies; abandoning them was evident in 8. Typically, death hastening occurs when older people become decrepit and are viewed as already dead. In these nonindustrialized cultures it is open and socially approved. Family members generally make the decisions, often after open consultation with those who are about to die.

32

Activity theory

suggests that those elderly people who remain active and socially involved will be best adjusted.

33

Euthanasia

Defined as the “act of bringing about the death of a hopelessly ill and suffering person in a relatively quick and painless way for reasons of mercy”

34

Elderspeak

Condescending ways to speak to the elderly

35

living will

written in regards to use of life support in the event of medical incident