Assignment: Aging and Elderly Essay
Sociologically, aging refers to the blend of social, psychological, and biological processes that affect individuals as they become elderly. However, scholars argue that beliefs and attitudes a person poses regarding the process of aging also reflect on the aging. In the United States, the population of elders is steadily rising. Reportedly, by the year 2011, US had about 41 million seniors and almost half of the US population aged over 37 years. Similarly, it is anticipated that by the year 2050, the US will have more than 83 million elders and half of the population will be aged over 40 years (Macionis, 2017). On the global scale, the number of elderly citizens is recording significant increase in virtually all high-income countries. The study of aging and elderly has mostly been fostered by gerontology which connotes a scientific field that deals with aging and elderly in the population by striving to understand the processes involved in aging and the barriers older seniors encounter as they grow older. Gerontologists work with a multidisciplinary team psychology, biological scientists, medicine, and social scientists.
Nonetheless, the aging in the society is commonplace and is evidenced by visibility of older people in virtually all aspects of societal activities including learning institutions that are frequented by older students and second careers. Essentially, the recognition of seniors in society has resulted in decrease in age discrimination and creation of social diversity. Notably, the elderly can be categorized into the young-old and the old-old. The younger elders comprise those aged between 65-75 years who are mostly independent with better financial security and good health. However, the older elderly are those above 75 years. They experience poor health and rely on others for support (Macionis, 2017). Notably, the significance of old age differs from culture to culture but the longevity of life is attributed to the advanced technology and standards of life. Essentially, the classification of the people in the society have resulted in age stratification which is characterized by imbalanced wealth, privilege, and power distribution among members of the society at different stages of life. In some cases, the stratification has resulted in gerontocracy where the elderly are accessed to most power, wealth, and prestige.
The rapid social changes that are currently witnessed have positively and negatively affected the elderly in equal measure. For instance, the social changes have caused an increase in the aging population in tremendous ways. The modern society is characterized by a robust economy that ensured new levels of success for many people. There is advancement in medical services which have become extensively accessible, thus, enabling the elderly to live longer life since old age related diseases and other illnesses can be managed more easily. Besides, the life expectancy is also increasing owing to the improved housing, nutrition, and increased wealth (Settersten, & Angel (Eds.), 2011). On the other hand, the social changes have resulted to negative effects to the older members of the society due to ageist attitudes and biases towards older people based on stereotypes. These factors tend to reduce the older people to state of inferiority or restricted positions. Often, ageism can be reflected anywhere including homes or workplaces and it varies in severity but when it manifest in a manner that patronizes the elderly, it can be offensive. For instance, in a situation where ageism is portrayed in the workplace, healthcare facilities, and assisted living settings, the impact of discrimination can be extremely serious because it creates a fear of job loss, feel neglected by physicians, or develop a feeling of lack of control over the routine activities.
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Moreover, the massive social changes have also affected the attitudes towards the elderly over the past century. Scholars attribute the modernization and industrialization to massive reduction in power, prestige, and influence that older people once
enjoyed. In early societies old age was characterized by respect and reverence. Several societies in the preindustrial era upheld gerontocracy by vesting the societal powers to the oldest members (Settersten & Angel (Eds.), 2011). However, presently, some societies elders are still given more powers and influence due to the advantages associated with enormous experience. Although the respect and reverence for the older people is still observed in the some cultures, the reality is that the practice has changed in many societies due to social factors.
In several countries, the industrialization led to abolishment of social standing of the older people. In the contemporary society, it is commonplace to observe young people holding massive wealth, prestige, and power. This situation has threatened some elderly people in the workforce who feel that the younger generation in the senior position are likely to drive them out of the employment. Besides, the advancements in technology have created new skill sets that the elderly are not well versed with. Notably, these changes are not only witnessed in the workplace. In many homes, older people face many challenges because the hard economy has made those who should provide them with care to view them as economic burden. Besides, many older people live away from their children who have migrated to urban centers to seek employment, thus, diminishing their social support.
It is undoubted that the biology of aging tends to render the elderly physically weak making them to depend on others care and support (Alam, Ibrar & Khan, 2016). However, this may not be case for many older people. There are many challenges the elderly face including social isolation due to retirement, negative stereotypes, limited mobility, loneliness either physical, emotional, or social, and the greatest loneliness occasioned by the death of the spouse or close family members. The retirement is mostly a challenge to the elderly when its condition depict less personality and social status and where the retirement leads to loss of prestige to the older people. Besides, the older people also face poverty since they are needed to cater for medical care, household demands, and high utilities when they may lack sources of income. However, the greatest social challenge that many older people face is abuse and mistreatment. This is occasioned by deprivation of care or harm.
Concerning the theoretical perspectives, there are many theories that can explain the sociology of the aging and elderly. To begin with structural-functional analysis, the major theory that manifest is disengagement theory that argues that society can improve by disengaging the elderly from taking charge when they grow old. On the other hand, the activity theory under symbolic-interaction analysis argues that according the older people high degree of activity increases their personal satisfaction in old age. On the other side is social-conflict analysis that advances conflict theory which argues that social inequalities are due to age groups. That various opportunities and social resources availability lead to age stratification. Therefore, the social groups should compete amongst themselves for scarce resources and power. Consequently, the elderly should equally compete with other groups for power and resources.