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Social Problems Aging and Ageism.

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Presentation on theme: "Social Problems Aging and Ageism."— Presentation transcript:

1 Social Problems Aging and Ageism

2 The Social problem of Ageism

3 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

4 Problems Over 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

5 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”

6 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 (

7 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 yrs While there is a gender difference, and suicide does tend to increase for elderly men, no age seems significantly more difficult

8 Suicide by Age… (Kendall et al. 2008)

9 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

10 Changing the Stereotype: The Zimmers
The Zimmers and My Generation See also:

11 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 * 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

12 Ageism as a Social Problem
Ageism: prejudice and discrimination against people on the basis of age Chronological Age: based on date of birth Functional Age: observable individual attributes such as physical appearance, mobility, strength, mental capacity, etc. used to assign people to age categories

13 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 *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 “Successful Aging: Images of Aging” on Google Video)

14 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)

15 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

16 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

17 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

18 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…

19 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:

20 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: RSENIORS23%2FTPStory%2F%3Fquery%3DVirginia%2BGalt&ord= &brand=theglobeandmail&redirect_reason=2&denial_reasons=none&force_login=false

21 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

22 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,

23 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 18-year-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

24 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

25 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

26 Housing Patterns and Long-Term-Care Facilities
Maintaining one’s 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

27 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

28 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.

29 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

30 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

31 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

32 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.

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