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Social Problems

Aging and Ageism

The Social problem of Ageism


http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=

7077021585117249336&q=&hl=en

Concept of the Life Course


A

patterned sequence of experiences


influenced by aspects of age such as
maturity, decline, generation, survival, and
the life cycle
There are expected and experienced life
courses in every society
We follow known age related patterns
May be a gap between the two > can be
cause of distress or disappointment

Problems Over the Life Course


The Life Course
1. Childhood:

Poor children have more problems


Increased obesity among all children

2. Adolescence:

Early teens cannot do legally what later teens can


Poor teens less likely to have a job or be in school
Young people are staying at home much longer
delaying the next stage

Problems (cont.)
3. Young Adulthood
Traditionally the time to get established,
but now is more difficult, if not postponed
4. Middle Age
Income and prestige are at the peak, but
signs of physical aging begin, e.g.,
wrinkles, stiffness, decline of senses, etc.
This is the sandwich generation

Problems (cont.)
5. Late Maturity and Old Age
Older people are an increasing percentage of
the population
Young-old (65-74 yrs) are very active
Middle-old (75-84 yrs)
Old-old (85+ yrs)

Although majority not lonely, living in an institution, or


poor, a significant number are experiencing problems
In U.S. in 2005, 70,000 centenarians (Anguera, 2005)
Canada: 4,600 in 2007
(http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/07/17/censuscanada.html)

Suicide and the Life Course


Around the world older people have a much
higher suicide rate than do younger
people
In Canada:
Men: rates rise from teen years, decline to
later maturity, and rise a little for 75+ yrs
Women: have lower rates with a high
point at 45-59 yrs
While there is a gender difference, and
suicide does tend to increase for elderly
men, no age seems significantly more
difficult

Suicide by Age
(Kendall et al. 2008)

Attitudes toward Aging


Many

other cultures revere the elderly, but


Western culture worships youth
Eg. What were the results of your IAT??
Our social institutions, especially the media,
help to create negative stereotypes toward
aging and the aged
This is ageism
Ageism negatively affects those who are
discriminated against

Changing the Stereotype:


The Zimmers
The

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=zqfFrCUrEbY

See

Zimmers and My Generation


also:

http://www.myspace.com/thezimmersband
http://www.thezimmersonline.com/
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6549333
.stm

Some Zimmer Facts


* In 2000, there were 600 million people aged 60
and over; there will be 1.2 billion by 2025 and 2
billion by 2050.
* Today, about two thirds of all older people are
living in the developing world; by 2025, it will be
75%.
* In the developed world, the very old (age 80+) is
the fastest growing population group.
* Women outlive men in virtually all societies;
consequently in very old age, the ratio of
women/men is 2:1.
(from http://www.myspace.com/thezimmersband)

Ageism as a Social Problem


Ageism:

prejudice and discrimination


against people on the basis of age

Chronological
Functional

Age: based on date of birth

Age: observable individual


attributes such as physical appearance,
mobility, strength, mental capacity, etc.
used to assign people to age categories

Age-Based Stereotypes*

Young children: rug rats


Old people: greedy geezers
Inverted U curve: older and younger are rated
lower in status than younger and middle-aged
adults
*For more on age based stereotypes of the
elderly, especially in media, see Attacking
Ageism in Advertising by Robert Wood at
http://www.medialit.org/reading_room/article523.
html
*Or watch:
Images Of Aging: Stereotypes And Ageism In Society
(2005) with Joaquin Anguera, Ph.D., Professor,
Department of Gerontology at San Diego State
University (You can also find it by searching for

Societal Examples of Ageism


Lack

of focus on elder issues


Invisibility of older members of society
Elder products, including media articles
relegated to specialty sections
Paternalistic treatment of the elderly
Focus on shortcomings, illness rather than
stregths and contributions of the elderly
(from Anguera, 2005)

Consequences of Ageism

Stereotypes become self-fulfilling prophecy

(one experiment shows that being treated in stereotypical


manner can affect physical health and appearance as well
as psychological well being of elderly)

Forced to conform to stereotypes


Loss of freedom and efficacy in many areas leads to
more rapid aging
Lowered self esteem and personal happiness
Exclusion from normal social interaction and social
relationships leads to loss of essential social support

Age Stratification Theory


Age Stratification: the inequalities,
differences, segregation between age groups.
Focus on the role of social structures in the process
of aging and the stratification of people by age.
Also analyzes the movement of age cohorts over
the life cycle
Canada has an aging population
Factors related to an aging population:

emigration of young people


an influx of seniors
low birth rates

Problems Related to Age


Stratification
Workplace discrimination: younger workers
are preferred
Retirement:

Debate should there be a mandatory


retirement age?
No longer in Ontario and some other provinces
But many people, e.g., small business owners,
women working part-time, may not have
pensions

Are There Economic Problems


Related to Aging Population?
Traditional

thinking:

societies with a high proportion of very old people


face a special problem because the elderly
consume a high proportion of the national
economy in the form of supports

However,

new research and thinking


contradicts this traditional thought:

Ageing and elderly people may be a social


resource rather than a drain

He ain't heavy, he's my boomer


(Andrew Chung, The Toronto Star, May 27, 2007)

A new international study forcefully argues


against this idea and tries to put the lie to some of
the many doomsday scenarios that have floated
around for the last 20 years about our aging
populace. In fact, there is a growing line of defence
around the seniors and the almost-seniors, which
regards as shaky the desperate claims of future tax
bills spiking to meet their public spending and health
care requirements
Read the full article at:
http://www.thestar.com/article/218076

Older workers a drain? Not a


chance, study finds
(Virginia Galt, Globe and Mail May 23, 2007)

Meet the new tax gusher: the golden-age


employee. Working Canadians between the ages of
60 and 79 contribute more than $2.2-billion each
year in tax payments on employment income - and
there is every indication that the populous baby
boom generation coming up behind them intends to
stay even more connected to work, HSBC Bank
Canada said yesterday in issuing the results of a
global survey conducted by Oxford University's
Institute of Ageing

Source:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/Page/document/v5/content/subscribe?
user_URL=http://www.theglobeandmail.com%2Fservlet%2Fstory
%2FLAC.20070523.RSENIORS23%2FTPStory%2F%3Fquery%3DVirginia
%2BGalt&ord=10782574&brand=theglobeandmail&redirect_reason=2&denial_reason
s=none&force_login=false

Social Problems Related to Aging


The

elderly in Canada are less destitute than


those in other countries, but many continue to
face economic strain
Feminization of aging: older women
tend to have fewer resources
Family Problems and Social Isolation:

Many seniors live alone


Suffer from loneliness, boredom
Problem of the tea-and-toasters
But many, especially women, have
networks of family and friends

Social (cont.)
During

downturns in the economy, employers


often target elderly workers in order to cut
expenses
Elderly people often face job discrimination as
they are still expected to retire at age 65
For instance, a recent article in the Globe and
Mail refers to older workers as a pain:

Baby Boomers a pain to work with, say young'uns


(by Virginia Galt, Globe and Mail,
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20
070524.wboomers0524/BNStory/robAtWork/)

Social (cont.)

Victimization: on the whole, although seniors


are less likely to be victims of crime, scams
involving elderly people and elder abuse are
often in the news.
An example, from the Globe and Mail:

Teen arrested in beating of 97-year-old (by Armina


Ligaya, May 24, 2007) Burnaby RCMP have arrested an 18year-old man in connection with the home invasion and
assault of a 97-year-old woman who lived alone.

Incidents like the one above lead to fear,


powerlessness and a loss of sense of control

Health Problems Related to Aging


Physical

and mental abilities tend to deteriorate


Transition to elderly status often a difficult one

Can result in depression leading to further problems

Elder

abuse is another concern

Physical, sexual, emotional and/or psychological


abuse have become social problems that endanger
the health of the elderly

Self-neglect

and a fear of being victimized are


other notable problems

Use of Health Care


Most

seniors living at home report


good health
Seniors account for one-third of
health care spending in Canada,
but they are not likely to bankrupt
the system
Again, see He ain't heavy, he's my
boomer by Andrew Chung at
http://www.thestar.com/article/218076

Housing Patterns and LongTerm-Care Facilities


Maintaining ones home is increasingly
costly, especially for single or widowed
seniors
7% of seniors live in institutions
Some long-term-care facilities are excellent,
but some depersonalize individuals
Some institutions may be sub-standard
Increasing reports of elder abuse in
institutions

Social Support for Aging and


Elderly People
Higher

life satisfaction for the elderly linked to


better health
Factors related to life satisfaction:

Social and family support


Marital status
High levels of religious activity

Sociological Perspectives
Functionalist
Disengagement Theory:

Older people want to be released from social


expectations
Permits transfer of responsibilities to the next
generation
Critique: Many older people disengaged because
of rules, not by choice. The consequence is that
they are removed from positions of power and
influence. Many elderly wish to and do continue to
work in paid and volunteer jobs.

Perspectives (cont.)
Conflict
Conflict

theorists argue that ageism is a form


of inequality plied by the younger majority to
further their own interests
We are losing a valued resource by
marginalizing the elderly

Perspectives (cont.)
Interactionist

symbolic interactionists focus on how socially


constructed definitions of age and aging affect a
person's experience of growing old

Activity Theory:
Older people who are active are happier and
better adjusted, and older people find
meaningful substitutes for previous roles
Critique: Older may not wish or be able to
maintain active lifestyles

Perspectives (cont.)
Feminist
Senior women have
Much lower incomes than senior men

Should improve with women in the labour


force

More

disability than senior men


Feminist theories stress that aging has more
negative consequences for women than it
does for men

Improving Quality of Life

Tepperman et al. suggest:

Use of the telephone and new technology like the


Internet as a means of delivering some of the needed
support
Teaching people to help themselves by learning how
to age effectively through anticipatory socialization
Lobbying, to increase public awareness of their special
circumstances
Pressing government for improvements to current
standard of living.
Calling for government legislation aimed at shaping
the physical environment in a way that will increase
the independence and mobility of elderly people.