Socialization to Old Age

Socialization to Old Age

Socialization to Old Age

Socialization to Old Age

Excerpt

GERONTOLOGISTS sometimes gloat with assumed wisdom over the paradox that aging literally starts at the moment of conception (or, for conservatives, at the moment of birth). But this is a socially meaningless statement. In addition to ignoring the difference between growth and decline, it confuses physiological condition with social position, which has differing norms and expectations. While it is important for geriatricians to develop objective measures of relative physical "age," these would have no social meaning unless they were highly correlated with the behavior of older people and with that of others toward them. Yet we know that this relationship is not strong. There are large individual differences in physical health which make for significant discrepancies between chronological and "functional" age. At the same time, despite minor variations between social classes, the onset of "social old age" tends to be fairly stable and uniform. It tends to creep up unobtrusively during the middle and later fifties, so that people tend to be regarded . . .

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