SOC 4020/5020--Sociology of Aging

Exam 1 Study Questions

  1. Why study aging and the elderly? More specifically, why should sociologists study aging and the elderly? What is the study of aging called? What does it mean to describe the study of aging as "interdisciplinary?" Is this an accurate description? Explain your answer.
  2. Discuss the activity theory versus disengagement theory debate? What was the significance of this debate for social gerontological theory?
  3. Compare and relate modernization, exchange, age stratification, political economy, and sub-cultural theories of aging. What do these theories have in common? How do they differ? How do these theories as a group differ from activity and disengagement theories?
  4. Compare and relate social breakdown/social competence cycle, life course theories, role theory, and phenomenological approaches to aging? What do they have in common? How do they differ?
  5. In your opinion, what theory (or theories) of aging provide(s) the best framework for understanding aging? Explain your choice.
  6. When is someone considered old? Stated differently, when does "old age" begin and how is this determined? In your answer, distinguish between chronological age, biological age, functional age, psychological age, and social age. Also be sure to address the impact of both mass culture and local cultures on social definitions of aging and old age.
  7. What are some of the methods that social gerontologists use to study aging and old age? How are these similar to and different from the methods used by other sociologists?
  8. What is longitudinal research? How does it differ from cross-sectional research? Why is it particularly important in social gerontology? Discuss the different types of longitudinal research.
  9. Distinguish between age differences and age changes? How do these relate to age, period, and cohort effects? Methodologically, how can social gerontologists distinguish between these various effects?
  10. What are some of the ethical concerns that are particularly relevant to gerontological researchers? What if anything can be done to address these concerns?
  11. What is the life course? What does it mean to say that the life course is socially constructed and culturally specific? Discuss some of the variation in the life course that exists between cultures. How are social roles, role transitions, age norms, socialization, age grading, and age stratification related to the life course?
  12. Briefly discuss the history of aging from pre-historic times to the present, emphasizing the dualistic view of aging that has permeated most of history. What was the impact of modernization of aging and the elderly.
  13. How has the status and prestige of the elderly in America changed since the colonial period? What factors account for these changes? Does the status and prestige of the elderly in America differ from that in other countries? If so, how?
  14. What is ageism? Where do ageist beliefs come from? What is the role of cultural values, economics, power, and the mass media in creating and sustaining such beliefs? Do you think ageist beliefs and stereotypes are likely to change in the future? Why or why not?
  15. What are some common negative stereotypes of the aged? What are some positive stereotypes? What is a "compassionate stereotype?" Are compassionate stereotypes negative or positive? What are some of the consequences of stereotyping the elderly?
  16. Discuss the importance of considering social context (historical, cultural, organizational, institutional, situational, etc.) in understanding aging and old age? How does this emphasis on social context relate to Weber's notion of verstehen?
  17. Discuss the statements, "Age is relative" and "Age is negotiable." In what ways is age relative? In what ways is it negotiable? What is the role of context? How does the meaning of age vary depending on who is doing the defining and who is being defined? Illustrate your answer with some specific examples.
  18. What is meant by the "Graying of America?" Be sure to address both historical patterns and future predictions. What accounts for these patterns? What are some of their implications?
  19. In which states do the most elderly live? Which states have the highest proportion of elderly? Which states are experiencing the greatest growth in the elderly population? Explain each of these patterns.
  20. What is the general pattern in terms of the aging of populations world wide? What countries have the most elderly? What countries have the highest proportions of their populations over 65? What countries are experiencing the greatest growth? Explain these patterns.
  21. Discuss some of the diversity that exists within the aged population. Be sure to address age, race and ethnicity, gender, wealth, and income. How does diversity shape the experience aging and old age in the U.S.? What does the future hold in terms of diversity? What does such diversity say about stereotypical images of the elderly?
  22. Social gerontologists often distinguish between the young-old, the middle-old, and the old-old. What are these distinctions and why are they necessary? Which of these three age groups has been growing most rapidly? Will this pattern continue in the future? Explain your answer. What are the implications of age diversity among the elderly?
  23. How do the life expectancies of males and females differ? How do these differences affect the gender composition, marital status, living arrangements, income, and political power of the older population? Would it be fair to say that aging is primarily a women's issue?
  24. Should we as a nation/society be concerned about the growing number of elderly? Who is responsible for insuring that the needs of a growing elderly population are met?
  25. Briefly discuss the emergence and development of social programs for the elderly in the U.S. What are the major programs that benefit the elderly? Why did they develop when they did? What are some of the major factors shaping policy regarding the elderly in the U.S.?