THE LIFE CYCLE POOR: IMAGES OF THE AGED
The image of the old--the life cycle poor--shares much with that of the status poor. Being old and being at the bottom of the status ladder are things, perhaps, to be avoided. While Fischer ( 1978) suggests we may be moving (or have already substantially moved) to gerontofratria, I think that time is past. His book, Growing Old in America, sees a progress from gerontocracy (or headship of the old) through gerontophobia (fear of the old) to the current state of gerontofratria (brotherhood of the old or brotherhood with the old). We have, as I see it, swung back to gerontophobia, close enough to hating the old.
It is true that books about the pleasures of old age and how it can be successful abound. Movement looks to be toward a positive, esteemed image of the older adult. But, using the best interpretation, they are beacons on a darkening sea.
There are many negative signs on the horizon. Benefits to the elderly are being cut. Taxes on them are increasing. Take, for one example, Robert Butler ( 1975) book, Why Survive? The title alone suggests problems, and reading it provides a litany of lament, a plethora of problems. Retirement is widely thought to be the harbinger of disease and death, though it is obviously not always that way ( McCluskey and Borgatta 1981).
The life cycle poor are ghettoized in special locations, and buildings within those locations. Nursing home crises, replete with stories of difficulties, inadequate care, and even abuse, surface regularly. Even the better facilities seem devoid of meaning and purpose ( Homer 1968; Tropman 1987).