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Social Theory in Gerontology


More people now exist on public pensions and state benefits. Life Course perspective ... theories and research-critiques the present social order and treatment ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Social Theory in Gerontology

Social Theory in Gerontology
  • Gero 300
  • Sep 2008

  • The construction of explicit explanations in
    accounting for empirical findings. A review of
    causal relationships that connect processes and
  • Types of theories Deductive and inductive around
    hypotheses, specific observations and development
    of theories.
  • Facts, models and paradigms (page 58-59)-examples
    of paradigm shifts

Barriers to Theory Development
  • Gerontology tries to solve immediate problems,
    sometimes based on incorrect assumptions-reduce
    loneliness through pet therapy.
  • Grand theories of generalization or post modern
    turn (page 60)-the social construction of
  • Why theories-integrate knowledge, offer
    explanations, provide predictions, offer
  • Three foci of gerontology-the aged, the aging
    process, age as a dimension of social structure
    at micro and macro levels

Activity Theory
  • Micro level, aging problems can alleviated by
    engaging in activities in order to continue with
    psychological and social needs of earlier life.
    This can be achieved by taking on new roles,
    friends and activities
  • Critique-Different meanings are ascribed to
    different activities. Not all psycho social needs
    are stable over the life course. Not all
    individual control their social situations-social
    class impact-difficult to measure outcomes of

Disengagement Theory
  • As we age we disengage and withdraw from social
    activities and social roles-a gradual mutual
    withdrawal from society as a whole with minimal
    impact on social equilibrium
  • Not based on empirical support. Does Society
    benefit from the withdrawal of seniors?
  • Problems with the many types of disengagement and
    has not examined carefully the cognitive
    processes involved in disengaging

Second Generation Theories Continuity Theory
  • Continuity holds that as we age people make
    choices to preserve with the past both internal
    and external. This theory posits that it is
    optimized when peoples lives change with
    personal preference, personality and social
    expectations. This theory lacks consideration of
    social structures-age, disability, income and
    does not adequately explain mal-adaptive
    behaviors in mid-life

Social Exchange Theory
  • Person to person interaction focused on
    calculation and negotiations that transpire
    between individuals as they seek to maximize
    rewards and minimize costs
  • What resources do seniors bring to the table and
    how can this be equalized? (p67) Reciprocity is a
    key concept-more resources the more satisfying
    social relationships

Age Stratification Theory
  • See pages 68-70. Two key terms-cohort flow and
    individual aging-physiological and maturational
    change over time. Allocation is used to describe
    suitable roles for people at various age levels.
    This is based on factors such as cultural values
    and economic conditions. In this theory,
    socialization is used to describe the learning
    and internalization of the AS concepts.
  • Structural lag is used to describe limited
    opportunity with the growing numbers of seniors

Aging and Modernization
  • Four aspects-health technology (p70)-economic
    modernization (new and specialized jobs which
    require special training and often location in
    urban areas)-urbanization which tends to lower
    the status of the aged and their familial
    roles-Education-children gain more knowledge and
    skill than their parents which again changes the
    status of the elderly. Look at the value
    issues-p71-decline in status, youth culture,
    value of work.

  • Theory is not explicit and needs to have more
    specific definitional terms
  • It is ethnocentric, using developed societies as
    a norm
  • May not be a linear concept, but more dynamic in
  • It makes people homogeneous and does not
    recognized the influence of social status and mix

Political Economy of Aging
  • The experience of old age can only be understood
    within the context of the economy-p72 The economy
    creates structural inequality, labels shape the
    experience of old age, social policy mirrors
    wider social inequalities, social policy reflects
    the dominant belief system, the role of the state
    in peoples lives as they age. Aging problems are
    socially constructed not biologically determined.
    Structural dependency is a key factor in Western

Political Economy
  • This theory links with AD and the constructed
    crisis of pop aging, and the distribution of
    capital resources. More people now exist on
    public pensions and state benefits

Life Course perspective
  • Dominant perspective in Gerontology with roots in
    age stratification (p 73). See def of life
    course, life span, life cycle, life history. Life
    history (page 74). Life span (p74). Life course
  • The theory is based on socially marked sequence
    of transitions, linked with historical time and
    the cohort and period effect.
  • Four major principles-shaped by historical and
    geographical placement-impact of transitions or
    events-lives lived interdependently-individual
    construct their life course by choice and action

Life Course
  • Critique-needs to articulate social structure and
    effect. Too micro focused. More explanation of
    life stage principles. Expand the concept of
    Agency-how do individuals shape or change
    structures-what is the dark side of
    agency-risk, stress, uncertainty

Third Generation Theory
  • Feminist Theory-examines gender and power
    relationships and how these are embedded in
    social processes and institutions (read p 78-79)
  • Key principles are the social construction of
    gender, biological determinism, family and
    leisure patterns, social worth, attraction,
    social value, political power, social definitions
    and rules.
  • How to give voice to womens issues as they age,
    rights to services and resources

Critical Theory, Postmodernism and Productive
  • CT seeks a self-awareness and a deconstruction of
    assumptions underlying mainstream gerontological
    theories and research-critiques the present
    social order and treatment of the aged (p80-81)
  • PM-anti-theoretical, considers cultural and
    social contexts of aging and power relationships
    between people and authority and public policy
  • PA-how to maintain a productive potential as we
    age and bridging age transitions-eg. Caregiving,
    volunteering, education and training.