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Aging and Society, Volume 1

Aging and Society, Volume 1: An Inventory of Research Findings

Matilda White
Anne Foner
Mary E. Moore
Beth Hess
Barbara K. Roth
Marilyn E. Johnson
Virginia E. Schein
Copyright Date: 1968
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 648
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  • Book Info
    Aging and Society, Volume 1
    Book Description:

    Selects, condenses, and organizes the entire body of social science research on human beings in their middle and later years. This volume summarizes empirically-tested generalizations from some three thousand research studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-681-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    M. W. R. and A. F.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-12)

    Following much previous research on the early years of the life cycle of man, social scientists have recently turned their attention to the middle and later years. These later stages of the life cycle become increasingly significant as man becomes increasingly likely to live them out. A man born in the middle of the past century was engrossed with the activities of the first four decades of life, the span through which, on the average, he was then likely to live. Today, a man born in the United States can look forward, on the average, to living well into his...

  5. Part one Sociocultural contexts

      (pp. 15-38)

      In this country there have been increases over many decades in the number and the proportion of Americans who are in the older age groups, as well as increases in the likelihood that an individual will survive into the later years. Demographic research analyzes these changes as they result from the rise and fall of birth, death, and immigration rates. Basic to an understanding of aging in the society are the demographic reports on (1) the size and characteristics of the aged category of the population, (2) the “aging” of the population in terms of the proportion of the total...

      (pp. 39-68)

      Since the turn of the century, when today's older generation was entering upon its life's course, basic changes have occurred in manpower utilization and the production of wealth. Today, a minority of older men remain in the labor force, in contrast to a majority in 1900. Thus, the economic context in which the older person works or retires is very different from that in which he was reared. Moreover, as his life-cycle situation shifts abruptly at age 60 or 65, his economic status becomes markedly different from that of younger adults in activity, income, and use of time.

      Such changes...

    • 4 FINANCES
      (pp. 69-110)

      The older person’s financial resources are his wherewithal for a way of life and for an economic status in society. Upon his income and reserves depend his ability to fill subsistence needs, to meet emergencies, and to partake of the affluence of today’s economy.

      Yet many older people face difficulties of financial maintenance. As the average length of life increases (Chapter 2) and the age of retirement falls (Chapter 3), the output of the population during its working years must in some way be spread over lengthening periods of retirement. Moreover, the financial problem of retirement is exacerbated by long-term...

      (pp. 111-120)

      The education of older people, like their health or their income, affects their position in society. Education is correlated with income, occupational and employment experience, and community status, as well as with many types of behavior and attitudes (as shown in Parts 3 and 4). The older person’s educational attainment (though only a crude index of his intellectual background and talents) has implications for the values he holds, for his occupational and cultural concerns, for his political and economic views, and for his competence in relationships with family and friends.

      The older person of today, whose formal education was completed...

      (pp. 121-156)

      Where the older person lives is not simply a matter of his physical environment, the climate or natural beauty of his surroundings, or the size or design of his home. Perhaps more important, his residence is also associated with his social environment, holding implications for the range of his human contacts, his day-to-day activities, and the community services and facilities available to him.

      Historic changes in population distribution, in community planning, and in the designing and marketing of houses affect the residential setting of older people today. To a great extent, older people have been swept along in the massive...

    • 7 THE FAMILY
      (pp. 157-184)

      The older person’s family is his main source of affection, emotional support, companionship, and assistance in case of illness or emergency. Most older people today have living relatives, and most reside in families. Those minorities who are widowed or who live alone are heavily concentrated at the oldest ages, and the oldest women, in particular, are often bereft of kin.

      Major changes have been occurring in the family cycle through which individuals prepare for and encounter old age. As life expectancy lengthens and patterns of family formation change, increasing proportions of adults now contemplate extended periods of husband-wife survival after...

  6. Part two The organism

    • [Part two Introduction]
      (pp. 185-186)
      Mary E. Moore

      A vast array of empirical studies in many fields deal with age-related changes in the human organism. Although a definitive treatment of this research would go far beyond the domain or the interests of the social scientist, Part 2 summarizes findings in selected areas that bear on psychosocial adjustment in the middle and later years and that must be taken into account by those seeking to further that adjustment.

      Chapter 8, The Nature of Aging, outlines some theories of biological aging that have attempted to organize and interpret certain of the empirical findings or to generate new ones. Chapter 9...

      (pp. 187-194)
      Mary E. Moore

      What is aging? Mortality rates for man tend to increase steadily with age, following a pattern closely approximating that for other animal species. Hence, many students postulate an underlying aging process, assuming that as time passes the organism changes and becomes less resistant to the stresses of living and more vulnerable to death. But the nature and causes of such a process are still largely matters of speculation. Is there an inherent biological process of aging that takes place within the organism, apart from the onslaughts of the social and physical environment? Is biological aging distinguishable from disease? To what...

      (pp. 195-220)
      Mary E. Moore

      Population studies provide one important source of information about the later life cycle of the human organism and how it is changing. On the one hand, many studies go behind the mortality statistics reported in Chapter 2, section 3, analyzing the patterns of death and its precipitating causes. Such studies deal with the interplay between biological and environmental factors in determining length of life and who survives; they offer guidelines to those attempting to promote longer life. On the other hand, recent inquiries into population morbidity (illness, injuries, and impairments) are beginning to shed further light on the physical condition...

      (pp. 221-240)
      Mary E. Moore

      In contrast with studies of the spread of illness and disability through the population of older people, a wealth of research showing age-related changes focuses directly on the organism itself, dealing at many levels with molecules, cells and cell components, tissues, organs, and organ systems. Both anatomical changes and changes in physiological functioning have been observed to correlate with age (despite many individual differences). Although the functional changes may be of more direct relevance to the social scientist, concerned with illness and disability as one major aspect of old age, anatomical studies (which are merely illustrated in this book) are...

      (pp. 241-272)
      Mary E. Moore

      Psychologists and scholars in various fields have observed pronounced changes in the behavior of the aging organism. Among these are deficits in sensation and perception, in muscular strength, in the ability to react quickly to stimuli and to respond by means of complex sensorimotor coordination, and among persons over 60, deficits in the ability to remember, learn, and respond with intelligence.

      To be sure, in our present state of knowledge, such behavioral changes (like the physical changes discussed in Chapter 10) are difficult to interpret. Which aspects of the behavior of the older person are a result of his aging,...

  7. Part three The personality

      (pp. 275-288)
      Virginia E. Schein

      Old people today differ from the young in many of their psychological dispositions. In particular, certain characteristics that are highly valued in American culture are found less frequently or are less marked among the aged. Thus, older people emerge from the research as more rigid, passive, or introverted than younger adults and less oriented to achievement.

      To what degree do existing differences by age reflect personality changes over the life cycle? If the personality does change with aging, are these changes largely secondary to physiological changes, or are they produced by factors in the social environment? Does it turn out,...

    • 13 THE SELF
      (pp. 289-314)

      Underlying the several dimensions of his personality, a clear sense of his own identity is experienced by the typical older person. Although conceptions of old age are often assumed to be largely pejorative, the modal older person appears to evaluate certain aspects of the self quite positively, for example, his moral virtues and the adequacy of his performance in occupational and familial roles. At the same time, he minimizes in his self-image many of those aspects that are negative, for example, his failing health or personal appearance or his relative lack of education. Moreover, there is a tendency for the...

      (pp. 315-340)

      Older people differ sharply from younger people in many of their opinions, feelings, and dispositions toward such central aspects of life as health, personal problems, or death. Underlying the myriad specific differences, certain recurrent themes are discernible, as old and young define and assess their life situations differently, and hence are inclined toward differing courses of action.

      First, older people tend to have lesssense of masteryover the conditions of their lives than younger people do, considering the world potentially less changeable. Second, older people tend (paradoxically) to stress theresponsibility of the individualfor his own destiny; whereas...

      (pp. 341-360)

      In somegeneralsense, satisfaction with life (happiness, morale, and adjustment) seems to diminish with age. This decline, already apparent in early adulthood, is not peculiar to senescence; but it becomes intensified (as both longitudinal and cross-section studies suggest) with age-related deterioration in health, loss of key roles, or reduction of activity. Thus, age appears to be associated with a general diminution of the opportunities for happiness.

      Nevertheless, when research is focused, not upon over-all satisfaction, but upon more specific reactions to particular areas of life, older people appear to differ from younger people not so much in levels of...

      (pp. 361-406)

      Mental impairment, crime, and suicide are aberrations of only small fractions of older people. All three constitute patterns of behavior failing to meet societal demands. Yet, the three are associated with age in quite diffferent fashions: crime appears to decline by age; mental illness, at least in certain forms, appears to increase; and suicide appears to increase in old age for men but not for women.

      What accounts for such patterns? To what extent are they connected with the stress attendant, for example, upon widowhood, retirement, or isolation? To what extent are the mental disturbances of old age associated with...

  8. Part four Social roles

      (pp. 409-420)

      There is an apparent constriction of role behavior among many older people and an attendant sense of loneliness or loss. Although few studies follow the individual over his life course, the middle years seem marked by expansion, the later years by reduction—in the number of roles, in the amount of time spent in interaction, and in the intensity of social (as well as solitary) activity. Yet if the older person is less active than the younger person, there is little evidence that he typically chooses to be so (compare Chapter 15, section 6). He seems rather to define situations...

      (pp. 421-462)

      The aging individual faces the culmination of his occupational role and a final period of retirement. For older men, the modal role is retirement, not work. Less than one-third of those beyond age 65 are in the labor force today, and this proportion is declining, from two-thirds in 1900 to a projected one-fourth by 1975 (Exhibit 3.3). Thus, if today’s older person grew up in an era when retirement was not widely institutionalized, he now confronts a world increasingly populated by age peers who are no longer full-time members of the labor force.

      What is the meaning of work and...

      (pp. 463-482)

      The political role is broadly attractive to people in later life. Though more important to men than to women, voting participation, political interest, and political commitment are maintained well into old age. And leadership in various forms typically reaches its peak during maturity. Even the low education of today’s older cohorts, associated perhaps with certain of their traditional views, does not interfere with the efforts they make as citizens.

      What processes account for the apparent maintenance, even the extension, of political interest with age? What enhances older people’s role performance in this sphere more than in others? How salient is...

      (pp. 483-500)

      Religion, it is often assumed, becomes increasingly important with old age and the inevitable approach of death. The truth of this assumption is difficult to gauge, however, since different kinds of people at all ages approach religion differently, and the religious role itself is multifaceted. Thus, not only age but many other factors as well are associated with the religious role, factors such as sex (in Western society, women appear generally more religious than men), socioeconomic status, or the particular religious group with which the individual identifies.

      Moreover, at least two major dimensions of the religious role, distinguished in research...

      (pp. 501-510)

      In addition to the broad religious and political roles discussed in Chapters 19 and 20, our pluralistic society offers a variety of voluntary associations as potential links between older people and the larger community, associations such as clubs, lodges, auxiliaries, and the many other formal organizations to which people belong part time and without pay. To be sure, belonging to such associations is less widespread among older people generally than membership in a church or voting in a national election, andaveragemembership rates show a drop in later life after a rise in the middle years. However, individuals vary...

      (pp. 511-536)

      Leisure, a concept only vaguely defined in our society, has been studied as a residual category of time that is “free” from work or from other pursuits regarded as more serious or obligatory. Old age yields new increments of leisure time, as commitments to parental and later to occupational roles are relaxed. What do older people do with this time? Are norms and customs developing to institutionalize a leisureroleas a counterpart to the workrole? Is the leisure of older people (as often surmised) more sedentary, passive, or homebound than that of younger people? What differences occur among...

    • 23 FAMILY
      (pp. 537-560)

      Older people play a variety of family roles. Most are either married and living with a spouse or obliged to adjust to widowhood. Most also play the enduring role of parent. While their children, in turn, form families of their own, new linkages are developed with children-in-law; and grandchildren, even great-grandchildren, proliferate. Many older people retain ties to siblings or other relatives, and a few continue in the role of offspring to parents who have survived into very old age.

      How do older people perform in these roles? How do they become socialized, at so advanced an age, to such...

      (pp. 561-576)

      Friends and neighbors play an important part in the lives of many older people, often providing help and services as well as informal contact with the world outside the home. They are, however, generally less important to older people than children and other relatives, serving more as a complement than as a substitute for kinship association.

      Several tendencies are suggested by the scattered findings. (1) Friendships and neighborly relations tend to be maintained well into later life. (2) The higher the socioeconomic status of older people, the more likely they are to have friends. (3) The longer the older person...

      (pp. 577-596)

      While only about 4 per cent of all older people over sixty-five are institutionalized, in absolute numbers this represents 615,000 persons (in 1960) who must learn roles appropriate to hospitals, nursing homes, or homes for the aged and who require considerable societal allocations of money and manpower. As the number of the very old in the population increases, these roles, and their costs to individuals and to society, may assume importance well beyond their present scope.

      The prevailing image of institutional life is largely negative. To the older person, the institution symbolizes the end of mastery over his fate as...

  9. Detailed table of contents of volume one
    (pp. 597-604)
    (pp. 605-626)
    (pp. 627-636)