John Mogey, László Cseh-Szombathy, Bernard Farber, Peter Somlai, Jan Trost
The elderly in all known human societies are special; their behavior sums up the effects of a lifetime of social experiences. In each society the behavior of its members falls into patterns that make sense to them. So the variety of choices offered by different societies might be expected to mold the behavior of their aged in distinctly different ways. Age by itself is not a social problem. Problems arise when the body is sick, when the mind is stressed, when social expectations that make sense to an age group are left unsatisfied. Demands that these conditions be corrected then create problems for relatives, for public authorities, and for elders themselves ( Rowe and Kahn, 1987; Hurd, 1989). The institutions of a society, the patterns of its political, economic, and domestic ways of life, meet such demands by promises to change. These promises appear as social policies.
In this book we examine the proposition that aging as a social experience affects not only the persons who are aging but, depending on the numbers that are aging, has repercussions that extend to all the institutions of their society. Social support for the aging will appear as personal and public policies to aid them. Aiding policies that respond to demographic and social changes will vary according to the central political ideology of the society. To study the relationships between aiding and aging, we sought two different societies in the expectation that the elderly would show how they responded in their domestic lives to a variety of political and economic institutions.
The work began casually enough during conversations at the 1982 World Congress of Sociology in Mexico. Hungary was presented as a centralized welfare society and the United States as a decentralized