Aging is Both Biological and
● Aging is both a biological and sociological process wherein human beings
experience and accomplish stages of biological and social maturation.
● Aging may be seen as a relatively objective biological process whereby
one becomes older and experiences varied biological developments.
● Aging may also be seen as a subjective series of social processes whereby
people interpret, negotiate, and make sense of biological development in
relation to existing conceptualizations of what it means to be a certain age.
Dividing the lifespan
● The human life can be divided into age spans, like the
– Young adult
– Prime adulthood
– Middle age
– Old age
Socially Constructed Interpretations
● What it means to be old or young
varies by culture and context.
– Some people who are biologically
older in terms of their age are still
physically quite capable and vice
Differential Treatment by Age or
● Ageism is prejudice based on one's age.
Treatment of the Young
● Ways young people are treated differently:
– inability to vote in elections
– inability to legally imbibe alcohol or smoke cigarettes
– inability to legally engage in sexual activity (this varies
– inability to hold public office
– inability to determine whether or not one can marry
– inability to determine whether or not one can get an
abortion (varies by region)
Treatment of the Elderly
● Treatment of the elderly includes restrictions
(e.g., driving) but also abuse
● Elder abuse is quite high in the US.
● Also many stereotypes about the elderly and
Age and Income
● Prior to the introduction of Social Security, the
elderly where the most impoverished segment
of US society
● This has changed as a result of Social Security
Age and Gender
● Women tend to live longer than men
● However, elderly women are more likely to be
impoverished than are elderly men
Age and Sexuality
● Sex and sexuality are part of the life course,
from very young to very old
● Young children receive messages about
sexuality at very early ages.
● Individuals often remain sexually active well
into their 70s and 80s.
Age and Race
● There are differences in average life
expectancy by race and ethnicity
Aging in the US
● Patterns of aging in the US are intriguing
● Different regions have different median ages
– Due to jobs and job prospects in some regions
– Due to retirees in other regions
Global Aging Trends
● Most populations around the world are aging,
though at very different rates.
● This is closely tied to income and resources