Chapter 15: Aging and the Elderly

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gerontology
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the study of aging and the elderly
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age stratification
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the unequal distribution of wealth, power, and privilege among people at different stages of the life course
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gerontocracy
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a form of social organization in which the elderly have the most wealth, power, and prestige
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caregiving
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informal and unpaid care provided to a dependent person by family members, other relatives, or friends
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ageism
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prejudice and discrimination against older people
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disengagement theory
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the idea that society functions in an orderly way by removing people from positions of responsibility as they reach old age
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activity theory
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the idea that a high level of activity increases personal satisfaction in old age
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euthanasia
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assisting in the death of a person suffering from an incurable disease; also known as mercy killing
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structural-functional approach of aging
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theory of aging that points to the role that aging plays in the orderly operation of society; includes the disengagement theory
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symbolic-interaction approach of aging
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theory of aging that focuses on the meanings that people attach to growing old; includes the activity theory
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social-conflict approach of aging
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theory of aging that highlights the inequalities in opportunities and social resources available to people in different age categories; capitalist emphasis on efficiency leads to devaluation of less productive, including elderly
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challenges of aging
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1. realization that one’s life is nearing an end 2. social isolation caused by death of friends/spouse, disability, retirment 3. reduced social prestige and loss of purpose in life due to retirement
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reason for the increase in elderly
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low birth rates and increasing longevity
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old-age dependency ratio
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ratio of working-age adults to non-working elderly people; current level 5:1
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young old
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elderly who are beetween sixty-five and seventy-five; typically live independenly with good health and financial security; likely couples
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old old
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elderly past the age of seventy-five; more likely to have health and money problems; dependent on others; mostly women
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oldest old
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elderly over eighty-five, 68.3 percent are women
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hunting and gathering
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societies that depend on physical strength and stamina; members grow old (around 30 yrs) become less active, economic burden, when food supply is short they are abandoned
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pastoral, horticultural, and agrarian
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societies where most privileged are typically the elderly; elders, especially men, are honored and feared; respect of elderly explains widespread ancestor worship
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industrial and postindustrial
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societies that give little power and prestige to the elderly;

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