This chapter reviews biodemographic theories of aging that attempt to answer the proverbial ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions in gerontology. Biodemography of aging represents an area of research that integrates demographic and biological theory and methods and provides innovative tools for studies of aging and longevity. The historical development of the biodemography of aging is closely interwoven with the historical development of statistics, demography, and even the technical aspects of life insurance. The chapter also reviews some applications of reliability theory to the problem of biological aging. Reliability theory of aging provides theoretical arguments explaining the importance of early-life conditions in later-life health outcomes. Moreover, reliability theory helps evolutionary theories explain how the age of onset of diseases caused by deleterious mutations could be postponed to later ages during the evolution this could be easily achieved by simple increase in the initial redundancy levels.
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This chapter describes the interpretive perspective in all its richness and variability in guiding research and advancing understanding of a wide range of phenomena in aging and life-course research. It discusses the interpretive perspective with other variants of social science theorizing, particularly normative perspectives on aging and life course-placing its development in historical context. The chapter addresses the contentious issue of causal explanation, as understood in diverse disciplinary contexts. It highlights some prominent normative theoretical approaches in social gerontology, by way of providing a comparative context for our primary consideration of the interpretive perspective. A given theoretical perspective in gerontology can focus solely on macro level, structural phenomena, on micro-level behavior and social interaction, or on understanding of the links between macro and micro phenomena.
This chapter traces the development of concepts and theories in the sociology of aging from the 1940s through the mid-1970s through seven themes. The first theme describes the importance of age in social structure and the place of the aged in changing societies. The second theme focuses on the issue of ‘successful aging’: how to define, measure, and achieve it. The third theme highlights the tension between social structure and individual agency in the activity versus disengagement theory controversy. The fourth theme concerns the social meanings of age, age cohorts, and generations, as well as interactions between age groups. The fifth theme focuses on families, aging, and intergenerational relations. The sixth theme of age stratification deals with the interplay between cohort succession and the aging of individuals. The seventh theme addresses the life course as a socially constructed process.
There can be little doubt that older people have today assumed a special place in the American social policy and political landscape. They constitute a large and growing population, they are increasingly well organized, and they are the recipients of public benefits that are the envy of every other social policy constituency in the nation. This chapter reviews and assesses different theoretical approaches that may help account in all or in part for these fairly recent and remarkable developments. The organization here centers on six distinct theoretical avenues for better understanding these political and policy developments: the logic of industrialization and policy development, the role of political culture and values, the presence of working-class mobilization, the impact of individual and group participation, the weight of state structure, and the effects of policy in shaping subsequent events.
- Go to chapter: Introduction: Psychology—Rising as a Discipline to Meet the Challenges of an Aging, Increasingly Diverse Society
Introduction: Psychology—Rising as a Discipline to Meet the Challenges of an Aging, Increasingly Diverse Society
This chapter presents an illustration of the complexities involved in studying ethnic and racial influences on psychosocial processes and how they are intimately tied to physical outcomes in later life. It focuses on psychology as a discipline, minority aging research during the last several decades has revealed the need for multidisciplinary and intersectional conceptual and research approaches. The chapter also focuses on the age, gender, socioeconomic, cultural, and racial and ethnic graded influences on life course development that eventuate in unequal burdens of psychological and physical health morbidity and mortality for certain groups in late life. No section on psychology could be complete without a discussion of religion and spirituality among racial and ethnic minorities. Generational processes are clearly implicated in ideas about the cyclical nature of poverty and health behaviors that are intricately linked with environmental factors and social influence.
This chapter examines the Older Americans Act (OAA) through the prism of the coming nexus of aging and ethnic/racial diversity. It explains that the OAA can serve as a foundation for building a home- and community-based set of services for all older adults and persons with disabilities and for addressing aging in the 2lst century. The OAA is the primary federal program providing a host of services that enable older persons and their families to live in their homes and communities with a measure of dignity and independence. The OAA, Administration on Aging (AOA), and aging network today provide five major categories of services: access to social and legal services, nutrition, home- and community-based long-term social and supportive services, disease prevention and health promotion, and vulnerable elder rights protections. The OAA and the AOA remain secondary players in national agenda setting for an aging population.
This chapter discusses the history, organization, development, and the future of Medicare and applies Andersen’s Behavioral Model of Health Services Use to understand utilization among the elderly and conduct a systematic literature review. It analyzes racial/ethnic disparities in health care utilization among the elderly using Andersen’s model and discuss the implications of the current proposals for changes in Medicare for health care utilization especially among minority aging. Racial/ethnic differences in seniors’ use of medical care were sizable before the Medicare program. The focus on deficits and controlling the cost of government has in turn increased the focus on health care and entitlement programs like Medicare. Medicare is important to ensure access to health care for the elderly, particularly the poor and minorities. However, with the rising health care costs and changing demographics, it is clear that Medicare needs some type of reform to ensure its continuing viability.
This chapter focuses on aging and health issues in all of America’s major minority populations including African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans, as well as Native Americans. It addresses the issues of health inequality and health advantage/disadvantage. The chapter introduces relatively new areas of inquiry including long-term care, genetics, nutrition, health interventions, and health policy issues. In addition to possible genetic factors, the literature has emphasized the influence of poverty and socioeconomic status as well as stressors associated with minority group status. The system of long-term care services will need to be restructured to take into account issues affecting minority populations such as health care coverage, housing and income supports, as well as cultural issues as filial piety and trust. The field of minorities, aging, and health has been dominated by a health inequality perspective that has been illustrated by the application of cumulative disadvantage/cumulative inequality theory.
This book provides a multidisciplinary compendium of research pertaining to aging among diverse racial and ethnic populations in the United States. It focuses on paramount public health, social, behavioral, and biological concerns as they relate to the needs of older minorities. The book is divided into four parts covering psychology, public health/biology, social work, and sociology of minority gang. The book focuses on the needs of four major race and ethnic groups: Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, black/African American, and Native American. It also includes both inter- and intra-race and ethnic group research for insights regarding minority aging. The chapters focus on an array of subject areas that are recognized as being critical to understanding the well-being of minority elders. These include psychology (cognition, stress, mental health, personality, sexuality, religion, neuroscience, discrimination); medicine/nursing/public health (mortality and morbidity, disability, health disparities, long-term care, genetics, nutritional status, health interventions, physical functioning); social work (aging, caregiving, housing, social services, end-of-life care); and sociology (Medicare, socioeconomic status (SES), work and retirement, social networks, context/neighborhood, ethnography, gender, demographics).
This chapter presents a case for examining aging in the United States through an inter-sectionality lens. It begins by presenting age, gender, and race/ethnicity as social constructions, followed by a conceptual overview of intersectionality to highlight strengths as well as challenges in this approach, particularly as it relates to health. The chapter reviews the most current thinking on gender and minority health, with special attention to social roles and contextual factors, and methodological approaches. The social construction of gender has been widely addressed in the sociological literature, with identified insights for better understanding health and the aging process. Research on gender and physical health outcomes draws much greater scholarly attention than mental health in later life. The intersectionality paradigm has provided new directions for identifying the importance of gender as a key element for predicting health across the life course.