Chapter 14, Age and Aging • The Social Significance of Aging • A Society Grows Old • Growing Up/Growing Old: Aging and the Life Course • Death and Dying • Age, Diversity, and Inequality • Explaining Age Stratification
The Graying of America • In 1900 only 4% of the population was over age 65. • In 2000, it was 13% • By 2030, it will be 20%.
Physical Process of Aging • The effects of aging depend on biological, social, and environmental factors. • Short-term memory becomes less accurate, but long-term memory becomes more accurate. • Artistic abilities have been known to develop in later life.
Social Factors in the Aging Process • 79% of all White males will reach 65; only 68% of all Black males will do so. • 88% of all White women will reach 65, but only 81% of Black women will do so. • Life expectancies of men and women who are poor are shorter than those who are middle and upper class.
Age Stereotypes • Positive: elderly people are happy, loving, wise and understanding. • Negative: elderly people are senile, dependent, forgetful, complaining and inflexible. • The media perpetuates age stereotypes, by under-representing persons over age 65 and presenting the elderly as childish.
Consequences of an Aging Population • The proportion of elderly people is growing faster than the number of potential caregivers. • Women will spend more time as the child of an elderly parent than as the mother of a child under 18. • Childless couples cannot count on younger family members caring for them in their older years.
Social Security • In 1945, the system had 35 people paying into the fund for every recipient drawing from it. • By the late 1970s the ratio was 3.2 to 1. • Current estimates note that there will not be enough workers to support the number of retirees by 2020.
Life Course Perspective Within each generation, life events shape the sociological experience of age groups: • Childhood • Youth and adolescence • Adulthood • Old age
Childhood The image of a childhood as carefree is not the reality for many children: • 1/4 of those living in shelters are children. • 26% of children live in poverty. • As many as 16% of girls under age 18 experience sexual abuse.
Youth and Adolescence • Until the 20th century, children moved directly into adult roles, there was no adolescence period. • Establishing an identity is the central concern of this life stage. • Special vocabularies and manners of speaking, argot, define youth independence from adults.
Adulthood • Carries more responsibility, rights and privileges than any other stage in the life cycle. • The economic and social resources one has influences how one experiences each phase of adulthood, including “mid-life.”
Retirement • Maintaining social contacts from work and elsewhere eases the burdens of retirement. • Taking on a job when retired creates social networks, which is linked to better health. • Most pension systems discriminate against women who have on average lower lifetime earnings.
Myths of Old Age • The majority of men and women remain sexually active well into their 70s and 80s. • The majority of the elderly adjust well to changes. • Only about 10% of the elderly become senile. • One of the most difficult adjustments of old age is widowhood.
Elder Abuse • There are between 820,000 and 1,860,000 abused elders in the U.S. • Includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, abandonment and self-neglect. • Median age for elder abuse victims is 76.5 years.
Quadruple Jeopardy Effects of being old, minority, female, and poor: • In 1999, 22% of elderly Black people, 20% of elderly Hispanics and more than 1/2 the Native American elderly were poor, as contrasted with 7.6% of Whites. • 15% of women over the age of 65 are poor compared with 11.6 % of men.
Theoretical Perspectives on Age Stratification • Functionalism sees both youth and elderly as less useful or “functional” for society. • Disengagement theory predicts that as people age, they withdraw from society and are relieved of responsibilities.
Theoretical Perspectives on Age Stratification • Conflict theory sees ageism as eliminating youth and the elderly from competition over scarce resources. • Symbolic interaction theory sees youth and the elderly as infantilized via cultural symbols, such as language and popular culture.