Scholarship on ethnic minority families and aging has wrestled implicitly or explicitly with the understanding of a theoretical dichotomy not uncommon in the field of sociology as a whole: the role that culture plays as either an epiphenomenon and/or as an integral element of the social structure. Interpretations of that basic structural versus cultural duality may derive from broader ideological perspectives, but they may also reflect a superficial framing of the concept of culture in scholarly analyses of ethnic minority families. This chapter presents a review of ethnographic literature on minority families and aging that is grounded in both racial/ethnic and feminist perspectives. It discusses three major topics that emerged as most salient in recent ethnographic studies: the concepts of familism, family obligations, and filial piety; the role of living arrangements, urban/rural space, and the neighborhood context on family experiences; and intergenerational relations, health, and caregiving.
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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).
- 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 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 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 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 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.
This chapter focuses on the role that Adult Protective Services (APS) and related service systems play in protecting vulnerable older adults and adults with disabilities from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It articulates policy issues connected to elder justice. The chapter also explores human rights issues related to elder abuse, aging, and disabilities, particularly how to balance rights to self-determination and safety when working with abused, neglected, and exploited older adults. APS operate within a continuum of services that challenge social workers in their efforts to respond effectively to elder abuse. In addition to knowledge of aging, disabilities, the dynamics of family violence and care giving, and community resources and skills in capacity assessment, working in multidisciplinary teams, advocacy, and systems navigation, social workers need commitment to values of self-determination and empowerment to guide their work in this system.
This chapter presents a broad and general overview of the structural and physiological changes that occur with aging as well as the underlying pathophysiology of age-related diseases. The body comprises eleven organ systems that include the integumentary, muscular, skeletal, nervous, circulatory, lymphatic, respiratory, endocrine, urinary/excretory, reproductive, and digestive systems. As such, the ensuing sections are arranged by organ system and structured to cover age-related physiological changes and common disorders. Older adults experience a myriad of physiological changes as they age. While some of these physiological changes are benign, other changes increase the risk of age-associated pathophysiological changes, which can result in significant functional impairment or morbidity. These pathophysiological changes are not to be considered part of the normative aging process. Thus, it is essential that providers distinguish between the two states.
The general topic of successful aging (SA) has long been a major theme in gerontology and has been an especially prominent and growing aspect of gerontological research and program development over the past 25 years. This chapter focuses on substantial empirical research that builds on the general concept of SA to inform theory evolution and various forms of program development at the individual and community level. There has been very substantial theoretical work, over several decades, on the interrelated but differentiated dual approaches of the life-course and life-span perspectives on aging. Usual aging was seen as laden with risk of disease and disability mediated by lifestyle-related increased lipids, glucose, and blood pressure, and decreased renal, pulmonary, cardiac, immune, and central nervous system (CNS) function. A successfully aging society can be seen as one that is productive, cohesive, secure, and equitable.
Social support from close relationships is one of the most well-documented psychosocial predictors of physical health outcomes. Social support is distinguishable from other health-relevant social processes including social integration and social negativity. This chapter reviews epidemiological work on social support and health, and explores the major life-span models that have implications for understanding these issues. Importantly, the link between social support and mortality was consistent across age, sex, geographical region, initial health status, and cause of death. In order to elaborate on the developmental processes over time that might impact social support from close relationships and health, a life-span model of support has been proposed that attempts to integrate prior work and models across disciplines. Most social support interventions also target individuals who are most at risk or who already have psychological, behavioral, or medical problems.
This chapter considers the major paradigm shifts that have occurred in geropsychology as it has progressed over the course of the 20th century. It also considers the consequences of increased interdisciplinarity for studies of aging within the discipline of psychology. The chapter describes the recent interest in research-based psychological interventions in the aging process, and of the more recent influence of advances in neuroscience. The study of aging, however, was early on recognized in the context of American psychology, and the division of adulthood and aging was one of the first 20 substantive divisions of the American Psychological Association (APA). The development of structural and functional Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has had a revolutionary enhancement of neuroscience, allowing for the first time the conduct of direct tests of the relationship between age changes in behavior and brain changes during normal and pathological aging.
This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on theoretical and conceptual developments in research on aging, both within and across disciplines. Recent years have brought major investments in longitudinal data, investments essential to understanding aging as a dynamic, multifaceted, and interactive process. The book summarizes what is meant by theory, and why theory is so important to advancing aging-related research, policy, practice, and intervention. The theory portrays the relationships among the complex variables suggested by a theory. A good theory identifies the problem and its most important components based on the separate findings and empirical generalizations from research. As the field of gerontology and research on aging continue to rapidly expand, the need for a strong theory will only grow.
Policy and Program Planning for Older Adults and People With Disabilities, 2nd Edition:Practice Realities and Visions
This book attempts to build students’ understanding of policy development through a critical analysis and review of policy frameworks, and the policy implementation process. The book is organized into four parts comprising twenty-one chapters. Part one of this book lays out a background as to the current and future demographic trends of older adults and makes the case for the reader that there are a variety of philosophical, political, economic, and social factors that affect public policy development. The chapters help the reader to explore a range of perspectives that define, shape, and impact the development and implementation of public policy. It intends to prepare the reader to critically analyze public policies related to aging. Part two provides an overview to major federal policies and programs that impact older adults and people with disabilities. It examines some historical developments leading up to the actual development and implementation of the policies. Policies include social security, medicare, the Older Americans Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Community Mental Health Centers Act, and Freedom Initiative. The last part of the book outlines specific programmatic areas that flow from aging policies, and specific components that flow from federally mandated policies. Each chapter contains same basic outline: an overview of the programs, specific features and strengths of the programs, gaps and areas for development, and challenges for the future.
The book summarizes what is meant by theory, and why theory is so important to advancing aging-related research, policy, practice, and intervention, and can keep researchers and practitioners in gerontology abreast of the newest theories and models of aging. It addresses theories and concepts built on cumulative knowledge in four disciplinary areas, biology, psychology, social sciences, and policy and practice, as well as landmark advances in trans-disciplinary science. Since longevity is indirectly governed by the genome it is sexually determined, and because aging is a stochastic process, it is not. Chapters cover major paradigm shifts that have occurred in geropsychology, theories in the sociology of aging, evolutionary theories pertaining to human diseases, theories of stem cell aging, evidence that loss of proteostasis is a central driver of aging and age-related diseases, theories of emotional well-being and aging, theories of social support in health and aging, and other theories such as environmental gerontological theories and biodemographic theories. Many chapters also address connections between theories and policy or practice. The book also contains a new section, "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants", which includes personal essays by senior gerontologists who share their perspectives on the history of ideas in their fields, and on their experiences with the process and prospects of developing good theory.
This chapter discusses prismatic history a selective, select account of theory building in the field, which ideally stirs gerontological imaginations about future theoretical work. Several of gerontology’s founders promulgated or borrowed theories to guide research on aging. Based on work in pathology, cytology, and immunology, Metchnikoff formulated ‘phagocytosis‘, an interdisciplinary theory of aging hypothesizing that large intestinal white blood cells destroyed microbes that hastened premature senility in humans, apes, dogs, and plants; the construct anticipated various degenerative and wear-and-tear theories. Biologist Vincent Cristofalo, endorsing no unified biological theory of aging, reduced models into groupings of stochastic and developmental-genetic theories. Gerontologists demolished disengagement theory in Unripe Time. Not even a giant like Robert Havighurst could salvage parts of activity theory in order to sustain his pioneering theory of successful aging.
This chapter describes the fundamental evolutionary theories that seek to explain the presence of aging despite its apparent detrimental effects on individual fitness and explores key evidence and shortcomings of these theories. It focuses on the observed trade-offs between life span and reproduction, highlighting potential molecular mechanisms by which selection can fail to eliminate, or even promote, patterns of senescence. An underexplored avenue by which selection can act on aging, mate choice, and sexual selection is then discussed leading to the development of a verbal model whereby mate choice could promote senescence as a by-product of honest sexual signaling. The chapter then explores how the described evolutionary theories pertain to human diseases, and identifies the critical absence of some important evolutionary processes in the evolutionary theory of aging and disease. Finally, it provides an in-depth understanding of why species age, and implications on human aging.
This chapter focuses on three major areas of investigation into the role of religion and spirituality in older people’s lives: age differences in the nature of religious and spiritual belief and practice; health benefits that accrue to older people who profess a religious faith and engage in spiritual activities; and influences on social and intergenerational relationships and support resulting from membership of a faith tradition. Social gerontology’s recent concern with religion and spirituality in later life has had a relatively limited impact on theorizing about aging and social relationships. Hinduism is also widely regarded as an age-friendly religion, which ascribes a distinct more mature stage of being to the last stages of life, in preparation for the transition to a new life beyond death. The chapter concludes with a stress on the importance of conducting research on religion, spirituality, and aging in non-Western and non-Christian cultures.
The lifelong manifold process of aging implicates biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors that interact over time and across place in complex ways to direct and temporally organize the shapes and boundaries of lives. As such, aging is a long, broad, and deep process: long, because it occurs continuously across the life span; broad, because it continuously integrates diverse factors from across levels of observation; deep, because it is never fully and directly observable as an ongoing generative process. Over the last two decades, theory building in aging inequality has focused on defining the role of health in the aging process. Arguably, health is now the core metric of aging; the diverse and complex patterns of disease, disability, and mortality with age have become the central problem for aging researchers, especially those concerned with social inequality and its pervasive and enduring effects.
This chapter focuses on sources of evidence for evidence-based policy development. It explores some of the dilemmas with developing an evidence base and provides a range of empirical sources within the aging and disabilities arenas that can be used in building an evidence-based approach to policy development. The journey, however, will not be without struggle—since philosophical paradigms, and social and economic factors will interface and play a role in the development of evidence-based policy. The chapter helps the reader to be aware of healthy people 2020 benchmarks that are used to guide program planning and policy development. Benchmarks currently have been established in order to identify where health goals for the nation and individual states should be, and the program is evaluated routinely by local and state health departments. Healthy people 2020 is also used to gauge the impact of health policy.
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.
This chapter reviews age-related changes in personality and emotional functioning. There are several theoretical approaches to studying personality, and most of them have examined the extent to which the theory applies to older adults. For example, Joan Erikson's proposal of a ninth stage of psychosocial development, as well as ways in which attachment processes may be important in late life, and ways in which coping strategies change with age, all represent the application of existing theories to later life. The chapter focuses on emotional functioning in late life. Overall happiness and life satisfaction tends to increase with age. Older adults also show more effective strategies for regulating emotions, including situation selection and attentional deployment toward more positive features of the situation. Some of these changes can be accounted for through two theoretical models: socioemotional selectivity theory and the strength and vulnerability integration (SAVI) model.
This chapter provides a brief introduction to approaches to coping theory-from its early roots in psychodynamic defense mechanisms, through cognitive and personality approaches to coping styles, to more current work on coping and adaptive processes. The coping process approach recognizes that coping strategies are influenced not only by person characteristics such as personality, values, and developmental history but also by environmental demands and resources. The chapter develops a definition of ‘resilience’ as the ability to recognize, utilize, and develop or modify resources at the individual, community, and sociocultural levels in the service of three goal-related processes: maintenance of optimal functioning, given current limitations; development of a comfortable life structure; and development of a sense of purpose in life. A common assumption of life-span developmental theories is that the increasing physical and sometimes cognitive limitations with age necessitate changes in adaptive processes.
Mounting evidence has shown that an array of proinflammatory cytokines and mediators is frequently elevated in aging populations, including interleukin (IL)-6, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and C-reactive protein (CRP). In addition to chronological aging, sterile inflammation can be associated with a number of age-related disorders and diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), bone diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and frailty. Many types of cancer are also related to or are preceded by chronic inflammation at sites of tumor development. Although more studies are required, evidence to date suggests that drugs that target age-related chronic inflammation and related fundamental aging processes, including cellular senescence or the age-related increase in mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activity, might play an important role in reducing age-related disability, frailty, and multiple chronic diseases as a group.
This chapter looks toward the future of theory development in research on aging, and offers some perspectives that will be helpful to graduate students, postdocs, and junior investigators. It highlights some directions for theory development and theory-driven research and application that are likely to be the most fruitful arenas for explanatory inquiry in the decade to come. These include: successful and positive aging; longevity, health, and well-being in aging; environments, and transactions among aging individuals and their environments; the life course and its effects on aging; and variations in trajectories of aging. Within the realm of health, we want to make special note of the surge in aging research on social genomics and epigenetics, which is certain to continue growing in the future and is in need of theories to explain the interplay between genes and environments as well as the transmission of effects across multiple generations.
- Go to chapter: The Multiplicity of Aging: Lessons for Theory and Conceptual Development From Longitudinal Studies
This chapter offers a new perspective on the development of theories of aging by proposing that the complexity of the aging process requires accounting for its multiplicity, specifically, its multiple time frames, multidirectionality, multidimensionality and interplay of factors, and multilevel influences. It takes advantage of the increasing number of longitudinal studies in the aging and developmental field to outline some lessons about the way theories on aging may be developed in the future to gain a more comprehensive picture of development and aging. The chapter proposes the principle of multidimensionality and interplay of factors as a third way of developing heuristic theories. It reviews several longitudinal studies that show that interplay between biological, psychological, and social factors affects important outcomes, such as subjective health or well-being.
The first theories of emotion and aging began simply, following assumptions established in biological and cognitive aging research. This chapter outlines findings and theories generated in the early years of gerontology, when the formal study of emotions and aging had just begun. The selective optimization with compensation (SOC) model acknowledges the reduced reserve capacities that often accompany aging and that lead to fewer domains of functioning. The amygdalar aging hypothesis, for example, posits that age-related declines in the amygdala are responsible for age-related reductions in negative emotional experiences. The study of emotion and aging has burgeoned in recent years, with researchers carefully distinguishing between different types of emotion regulation strategies and assessing various aspects of emotional well-being. Theories on emotion and aging have varied, with some focused on deterioration and decline, and others on gains.
Aging policy is shaped by a variety of demographic, social, and economic factors. However, these factors are not the only influences on the development of public policy or aging/disability policies. Philosophical paradigms and theoretical frameworks also influence the actual development of policy and play a strong implicit role in how public policy is drafted. Values and philosophies guide the development of specific philosophical paradigms and shape how aging and disability policy is developed and implemented. This chapter explores how these realities play a role in the development and implementation of public policy and aging/disability policy. It showcases some of the realities that may prevent the implementation of the policy or program as envisioned. As a safeguard against a subjectively devised policy and program base, objective evidence and empirically driven initiatives can be developed by aging and disability policy advocates.
Gerontology has an uneasy and codependent relationship with chronological age. This chapter describes the meanings and uses of age in research on aging, focusing mainly on concepts and theories but also making a few observations on methods. To advance theories of social phenomena, investigators must reveal the relevance and irrelevance of age in contemporary social life. Researchers often use age as a proxy for things that are highly age-related but have not been measured-say, some biological, psychological, or social aspect of development. Age-based explanations are about maturation, but cohort-based explanations are about historical events and social change. Larger life phases can be the basis for ageism and age stereotypes-common images or perceptions of people of different ages, and their physical, psychological, and social characteristics. Stereotype embodiment theory (SET) has advanced recent research on ageism and age stereotypes.
This chapter helps the reader to be familiar with the role coalitions play in advocacy and policy development and to understand the various types of coalitions that affect the policy landscape. It also helps the reader to be familiar with the various roles that exist within groups and coalitions that contribute to the success or non-success of the group process. A number of strategies can be used to develop initiatives to impact one’s advocacy efforts. These strategies can be used to promote the development of new programs and services and can include the use of and/or development of coalitions, the media and media advocacy, and consumer advocates. The chapter addresses each of these strategies in greater depth. It outlines a variety of issues related to coalitions, group development, and coalition building for aging policies and programs.
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.
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.
Wisdom tends to provide a sense of mastery and meaning in life that sustains well-being even under adverse circumstances. This chapter provides a summary of explicit and implicit wisdom theories. It explores the contextual life-course approach to address the divergent trajectories of personal wisdom development, with focuses on the importance of social support networks and role models. The chapter also explores the associations among wisdom and culture, religion/spirituality, and well-being in old age. Most wisdom literature concurs that advanced cognitive development is necessary but not sufficient for wisdom to arise. In older adult samples of mixed educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, wisdom, assessed as analytic and synthetic wisdom modes and an integration of cognitive, reflective, and compassionate wisdom dimensions was positively associated with subjective well-being, even after controlling for physical, health, socioeconomic status, financial situation, physical environment, and social involvement.
Studies in model organisms strongly support the idea that proteostasis is critical for healthy longevity and that enhanced proteostasis is associated with longevity both across species and within species. This chapter provides an overview of the evidence supporting the theory that loss of protein homeostasis is a conserved mechanism of aging. It also provides an overview of current evidence that loss of proteostasis is a central driver of aging and age-related disease, based on studies from a variety of model systems and clinical data. Although the link between loss of proteostasis and disease is strongest in age-associated neurodegenerative disorders, there is growing evidence that misfolding and aggregation of proteins also contribute to other age-related diseases, as well as functional decline in numerous tissues and organ systems accompanying the aging process. The heat shock response (HSR) has been strongly implicated in aging in several organisms, including yeast, worms, and flies.
Older adults experiencing cognitive decline and any of the dementias are suffering in ever increasing numbers. With the aging of the baby-boom generation, the incidence of cognitive decline and dementia will exponentially escalate over the coming years. With this coming tsunami of dementia, older adults experiencing dementia, as well as their family members and caregivers, will need the services of psychologists. Psychologists are needed to help families recognize the importance of end-of-life planning for an older adult when first diagnosed with a dementia. When an older adult understands that he or she has responsibility for and choice in the decision to abuse a psychoactive substance, there is a greater probability of successful treatment and recovery from a substance abuse problem. Psychologists are in a unique position to assess whether older abuse is occurring and, when discovered, to intervene with advocacy initiatives.Source:
- Go to chapter: Theories of Environmental Gerontology: Old and New Avenues for Person–Environmental Views of Aging
This chapter provides some integrative perspectives to some of the enduring conceptual challenges in the area, such as place dimension while we age; what available theories in the ecology of aging are telling us; and what kind of new impulses refinement in this area are needed. It argues that the current trend toward intensive measurement designs in the daily ecology and the related increasing use of ambulatory assessment, taking into account short-term, interindividual variability in areas such as cognitive and emotional functioning, and daily stress experiences, may benefit from environmental gerontology perspectives. As we see it, environmental gerontology rests on three main principles two more related to the concept level and one more related to research strategy: importance of person-environmental (P-E) transaction and developmental co-construction; importance of explicitly considering the environment, with a focus on the physical-spatial dimension; and importance of optimizing ecological validity in research.
Scholars studying social connectedness draw on the sociological theory of social capital. In recent years, social scientists have proposed theoretical and conceptual models to explore the role of social connectedness in the specific context of aging. Recent data on the social networks of older adults paint a rich picture of the individual, or egocentric, social networks of the elderly community-dwelling population. This chapter discusses the theory of social capital, and explores the main effects and stress-buffering models of social connectedness and health. Although social capital theory has effectively guided empirical research, new ideas and concepts in aging research are generating interest among scholars, and are taking the field in innovative directions. A series of studies based on the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study (NAS), an ongoing study of aging established in 1963, documents a relationship between air pollution and various health conditions such as increased blood pressure and inflammation.
This chapter illustrates that aging in place is richer and more dynamic than simply understanding aging as loss and place as a static physical environment. The conceptual cornerstone of environmental gerontology is Lawton and Nahemow’s Ecological Model of Aging, otherwise known as the ‘competence-press model’ of aging. The concept of aging in place has evolved from the simple homeostatic notion of person-environment (P-E) fit to a more dynamic conceptualization that considers people, places, the programs they embody, constructive selective and accommodative processes, and the goals that motivate the entire enterprise, as they all evolve over time. The ecological framework of place (EFP) identifies a variety of factors that are hypothesized to affect P-E fit, including characteristics of individuals, places, and time.
Efforts to understand the biology and cause of human aging are as old as recorded history. Even during the Age of Enlightenment, and the major discoveries made in biology in the 20th century, the fundamental cause of aging is still a mystery. Age changes can occur in only two fundamental ways-either by a purposeful program driven by genes or by stochastic or random events. But, once reproductive maturation is reached, thought is divided with respect to whether the aging process results from a continuation of the genetic program or whether it occurs by the accumulation of dysfunctional molecules. The quantitative variation in physiological capacity, repair, and turnover accounts for the differences in longevity both within and between species. Because longevity is indirectly governed by the genome it is sexually determined. Because aging is a stochastic process, it is not.
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.
- Go to chapter: Social, Political, Economic, and Demographic Factors and Historical Landmarks Impacting Aging and Disability Public Policy
Social, Political, Economic, and Demographic Factors and Historical Landmarks Impacting Aging and Disability Public Policy
This chapter helps the reader to be familiar with the demographic and social factors that influence and shape aging and disability policy over time and to be aware of policy changes over the past century within disability and aging public policy. It explains the contrast between advances in science and technology and public policy related to people growing older and people with disabilities. Landmarks serve as essential tools to help us recall specific historical events in time. Historical landmarks, science, and technology have played significant roles in the evolution of social policies; however, aging and disability policies may not have made as many strides as other areas throughout history. The chapter briefly discusses: the role of historical landmarks in shaping social trends and public policies; the relationship between historical landmarks and aging and disability-related policies; and trends in policy, social, and political influences and landmarks in the United States.
This chapter combines the increasing number of studies that pertain to the stereotype embodiment theory (SET) and reflects upon to represent the current state of this theoretical perspective and how it can help explain age stereotypes’ contributions to health and aging. It describes the history, cultural context, and nature of age stereotypes and age self-stereotypes in a largely ageist society. The chapter presents SET, which provides a framework for explaining how age stereotypes are acquired to subsequently influence health outcomes. It discusses replication studies conducted in different countries, as well as meta-analyses, to demonstrate the validity of this theory as well as to illustrate the meaning and impact of its components. The chapter illustrates how SET may be applied to shape future healthy aging research, policy, and practice. Empirical evidence supports the importance of age stereotype self-relevance among older adults.
While high-income nations have experienced increasing life expectancy as a consequence of better healthcare and healthier lifestyles, this does not mean that the size of the aging population will be the highest globally. The issue of HIV and older adults will continue to be a public health issue across the globe and will require the attention of factors related to socioeconomic context as well as sexual health and education. Regardless of the income of specific nations, families provide essential and important support for elders. The support of the oldest-old and those who require long-term supports and services earlier in life will be the most pressing issue for all nations going forward—rich and poor alike. These issues, in and of itself, is a great reason to participate and learn about international issues and global aging so that we can in fact face the challenge of change in our aging world.
This chapter briefly discusses housing and housing education activities that offer several unique perspectives on understanding issues of housing for older adults. The housing education activities are as follows: (1) Find a Nursing Home, (2) Field Trips to Senior Facilities, (3) Household Disaster Planning Kits, (4) Long-Term Care Residence Disaster Planning and (5) Applying Anti-Racist Pedagogy to the Exploration of Senior Housing. Activity 1, simulates some of the challenges older adults and their families face by actively engaging participants in the process of evaluating nursing home quality. Activity 2, provides hands on context to understanding the diverse housing options in the senior housing continuum. Activity 3, addresses an often overlooked concern for persons aging in place. Activity 4, similarly addresses the issue of emergency preparedness, this time in the context of conducting research and a focus on institutional rather than individual planning.
When one considers the prospects of aging, considerations of variables that could be found to help individuals age more gracefully are paramount to appreciate. This chapter provides an overview in regard to the importance of animals in our lives; more specifically, it addresses how animals help support individuals in their later years. It is amazing to appreciate that the warm heart, cold nose, and wagging tail of a four-legged creature would make such an impact. The chapter gives attention to considerations for people who may want to adopt pets in their later years as well. It provides a brief description on: pets and older family members; why we love animals; what is the human–animal bond?; physiological and psychological benefits of human–animal interactions; and understanding the human–animal bond. It also briefly discusses how to select a pet.
Research is a key component in every discipline and is often considered the most difficult to teach and the most boring to learn. Many undergraduate and graduate courses in research methods are across two semesters, which include a course on statistics and then a course on research methods, with a melding of the two during the second course. Universities are encouraging undergraduates to complete a research project with a professor in order to show their abilities prior to joining the workforce or attending graduate school. This chapter discusses research education activities. In Activity 1, Diversity of the Aging Experience, students utilize their newly acquired knowledge of research methods to locate current research on older adults. Activity 2, Final for Biology of Human Aging Course, incorporates acquired knowledge on biological aspects of aging and links an individual to each biological aging process.
The topic of death has tremendous biopsychosocial complexity. This chapter discusses it under the social aspects of aging because familial, societal, and cultural norms provide the context for understanding the how, when, and where of our deaths as well as our experiences of bereavement and grief. And yet, near the end of life, it is important to note that each person prepares for and faces the challenges differently. The varying illnesses and physical conditions combined with the individual uniqueness that we bring to the dying and bereavement processes create this biopsychosocial complexity. The challenge of our legal, health care, and community systems is to meet these diverse individual needs while evolving with society's changing norms. The chapter aims to introduce readers to the tremendous biopsychosocial complexity of understanding death and loss, in consideration of the diversity found among older adults.
This chapter provides insight into the demographics of aging, and an overview of potential benefits and challenges of using technology to help older adults. It outlines four interconnected challenges of an aging population. With the expected increase in care needs that coincides with an aging population, the first challenge is the question of how to provide relevant high quality-care to older persons. Second, with fewer caregivers available in relation to the growing population in need, we can expect that the relative burden of care experienced by caregivers will increase. The third challenge is to increase the relative number of healthy and independent seniors by taking a more proactive approach with prevention and health maintenance strategies. The final challenge addressed concerns the development of health care systems and policy changes that are more inclusive of needed assistive technologies and medical devices.
This chapter takes a step-by-step approach to identifying and securing an internship, practicum, field work placement, or similar experience in gerontology. Readers are taken from the initial stages of career exploration all the way through the process of applying for potential internship, practicum, or field placements. Professional development and reflection activities in the chapter include determining short- and long-term professional goals, assessing personal and professional strengths, and evaluating which internship opportunities might best fit one’s personal and professional requirements. Additional content and activities address practical aspects of the internship-seeking process, including networking, informational interviews, initial resume construction, cover-letter writing, and assessing one’s social media presence.
Demography studies include examining how many people are in a given geographic location; population growth or decline resulting from trends in fertility, mortality, and migration; where people are located and why; and characteristics of the population. The two activities in this chapter offer students opportunities to apply demography and demographic ideas to our aging world and their own hometowns. In Activity 1: Applying the Demography of Aging to Countries Around the World, students can learn how countries have changed over time and can become more savvy about the information they are exposed to regarding trends in populations. In contrast, Activity 2 Hometown Age Demographics moves the focus to the student's local area, making the information more personal and contextualizing the data in a different manner. The activity seeks to challenge students to examine their own communities to discern whether their hometowns are experiencing population aging or not.