Aiding and Aging: The Coming Crisis in Support for the Elderly by Kin and State

By John Mogey | Go to book overview

3
THE AGED IN THE UNITED STATES: KINSHIP ANDHOUSEHOLD

John Mogey, Bernard Farber, Robert A. Lewis, Ione DeOllos


PROBLEMS IN KINSHIP, HOUSEHOLDS, AND HELP

In the United States today the unit for domestic living in the community is clearly the household. Those aged 65 or older who live in the open community far outnumber those in group quarters, such as asylums, barracks, hotels, nursing homes, sanatoria, and other institutional settings. Even among the old-old, those 85 or older, fewer than 25 percent live in group quarters. Of the 26 million Americans who are 65 or older, only 6 percent live in institutions. Among the 94 percent in households 1 percent join with nonrelatives of the head in forming a household, which means the remaining 93 percent live with relatives or alone. In this preference for household composition, the aged do not differ from the rest of the population; in 1981, 95 percent of all households had only relatives in them, if we include the 23 percent where there was only a single person; for those 65 or older, the figures are 97 percent with relatives and 44 percent alone ( U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1981; U.S. Congress, Senate, 1985).

Within the households of the United States, therefore, social attachments between the members result from either parenthood or marriage. In all human societies such social ties are elements of the social system known as kinship.

Kinship, a component of cultural beliefs and attitudes, is widely used as a concept in the inheritance of wealth, of succession of power and family names, of the control of partners that can or cannot be married, and generally serves as a locus of social identity. In this chapter we look on it as a source of norms for the formation of households, the social group that sets the boundaries for family interaction and the social space

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