Aging and the Life Course An Introduction to Social Gerontology

Aging and the Life Course: An Introduction to Social Gerontology

The first chapter in the book, “Aging and the Life Course: An Introduction to Social Gerontology” focuses on the definition of gerontology, specifically social gerontology. From the definition of social gerontology as covered in the book, it is possible to identify that social gerontology focuses on the social aspects of aging. In the United States, the most applicable definition of old age is the chronological age. However, other definitions include factors such as the social roles that an individual assumes, for instance a retiree or widow, the identity of the subjective age as well as the functional age. In the social sphere, the definition of old age depends on the purpose it is meant to serve.

The first chapter also looks into the aspect or definition of cohorts and the reasons why social gerontologists are interested in it. The author takes note of the fact that cohorts are shaped by some of the historical events that they have experienced, and it is possible to distinguish age differences through the concept of cohorts. Another concept covered by the author is the definition of ageism, from which he identifies that it is the discrimination or stereotyping against individuals using age as the basis of their argument. The perpetuation of ageism is based on stereotyping standards that identifies the accomplishments of women based on their appearance and that of men, whose valuation is based on some of their accomplishments.

Social gerontologists use cross-sectional research to make comparisons of different cohorts at definite points in time. Through the utilization of cross-sectional research, it is possible for the social gerontologists to examine age differences in individuals by focusing on the behaviors and attitudes of the different cohorts. Through longitudinal research, it is also possible for the social gerontologists to determine the effects of cohorts by examining the social orientations in a given period. For the identification of the large-scale trends, social gerontologists utilize qualitative research methods, which assist in the provision of individual experiences as well as social processes.

The idea of life course transitions focuses on the sequencing of some of the events that an individual will have to go through in life. On the other hand, the author covers the aspect of life’s transitions by looking at the duration of the different phases in life. For instance, as a student, there are different transformative phases that I have been able to go through in life from childhood up to this point. A distinctive change in some of the durations of an individual’s life course is the extension of the adolescent period. Until the 1980s, the expectation was that adolescent children were to move away from parents’ home in order to live independently. However, in the past two decades, it is evident to determine that the adolescent children are living in their parents’ homes for longer periods that before. This example is indicative of some of the transitions taking place in the life course of individuals.

The author also covers the theoretical aspects of aging in the third chapter of the book. In this case, she identifies some of the things that the first students of social gerontology hoped to learn from their studies. For this reason, the students came up with theoretical proposals of the same, with the first theory being the disengagement theory. This theory was based on the premise that aging is inevitable and happens naturally. Scholars have continually broadened the scope in the study of aging, thereby developing the modernization theory, which includes some of the large-scale social forces that influence the aging process of individuals. The author also identifies an existing relationship between the ages of individuals and their social status, which is a consideration of the modernization theory. She takes note of the fact that the relationship varies with an individual’s culture. Other theories include the political economy theory, which provides explanations of the reasons as to why social resources are not distributed equally between individuals. Experiences in life indicate that there is a variation in the economic distributions of aging, which is explainable through the political economy theory of aging.

Another vital component in the social context of aging as stipulated by the author concerns the demography of the aging society that we are living in. The social life of individuals, including their cultures and the experiences they undergo during the aging process are affected by the population dynamics. Demographic factors in the context have an influence on some of the public policy provisions, which determine the future of individuals in society. This is mainly affected by the generational sizes. For instance, it is possible to insinuate that the size of the generation ahead of my generation is likely to affect some of the future policies that legislators might be forced to make regarding the social security of my generation. The author accounts for this consideration in the determination of the factors that are likely to affect the aging trends of individuals.