SOC 4020/5020--Sociology of Aging
Exam 1 Study Questions
- 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.
- Discuss the activity theory versus disengagement theory
debate? What was the significance of this debate for
social gerontological theory?
- 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?
- 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?
- In your opinion, what theory (or theories) of aging
provide(s) the best framework for understanding aging?
Explain your choice.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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?
- What are some of the ethical concerns that are
particularly relevant to gerontological researchers? What
if anything can be done to address these concerns?
- 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
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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
- 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?
- 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
- 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.?