In Sociology, what things are important to assess when working with older adults?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most important elements to keep in mind when examining the impact of sociology on older adults is the role of the family as an internalized social structure.  Older adults have a unique relationship to the family structure. One reason for this is because they have had a longer period in which they have interacted with the family unit.  As society has advanced, life expectancy has increased.  The result is that older adults have developed a longer relationship to the family.  At the same time, children have become older themselves and this has significantly impacted the way in which older adults have become viewed. There are realities generated from this sociological condition that impact older adults in a significant manner. For example, being placed in assistive care facilities, physical removal from the family unit, and the perception of being a burden are all aspects of the sociological condition that older adults face.  When exploring the sociology of older adults, the examination of a changing family dynamic is critical.  It is not as important with any other group than it is with the group that must wrestle with age both as an existential force, but also a sociological one.

Another sociological element that must be kept in mind when assessing older adults is the fundamental support of younger people that modern societies tend to offer.  Simply put, so- called "advanced" societies feature a slant towards younger people.  For example, examining work as a social structure takes on advanced meaning with regards to older people.  The standard understanding was that people work to a particular age and then enter retirement with aspects of pensions and Social Security that have been publicly subsidized.  As a result of life expectancy increasing and other market demands, this condition is no longer so lucid.  Social Security and other public entitlements are evaporating, pensions are no longer guaranteed, and as older people live longer, retirement plans of the past are no longer viable.  This means that people with greater health challenges through age are being forced to work longer into their lives.  Such a condition impacts both the older individual and their perception from the youth- oriented society.  Adding to this a globalized workplace that rewards youth at the cost of experience, and the sociology of older individuals becomes even more complex.  As globalized work settings drive towards economic efficiency, experience in the workplace is seen as an economic liability for one with more experience has to be paid more in salary and compensation.  Young people are more economically viable and can take broad cuts in salary and benefits that older adults are less likely to accept or can accept. At the same time, the globalized workplace has fixed definition as to who can do what. The idea that young people can work in factories and that factory would provide a job for thirty or forty years is no longer shared. Factory work and labor intensive tasks are immediately filled with younger people, and most likely closing out a sector towards older adults. The long- term sustainability of work is something that young people can acknowledge as simply "part of life," but for older adults, this is a social stigma that they can "no longer cut it" or simply that they are "getting old."  Such realities a direct reflection of the sociology of aging and must be acknowledged when working with older adults.

Finally, from the existential point of view alluded to earlier, the fact that modern society is unable to generate coherent understandings toward spiritually grounded issues impacts older adults more than younger ones.  This is an aspect of sociology that must be acknowledged.  For example, social beliefs towards death and what happens afterwards are not fully understood. Younger people have the luxury of being able to defer such discussion until later points. Death and the afterlife are complex and in order to avoid such complexity, simply deferring the discussion is embraced.  For older adults, this discussion can no longer be put aside for it is confronting their very being.  Death and finite ends are real, with definable features that cannot be ignored.  It is reaffirmed when other older adults they know succumb to death or to suffering that brings about an end.  It is reaffirmed when a spouse of fifty years passes on.  It is reaffirmed when few others wrestle with such a condition.  A young person of 19 and an older adult of 79 view a cemetery in different ways.  The lack of social understanding towards finite ends is a reality that must be taken into account when examining the sociology of older adults.  Social ambiguity must be understood with this population.

udonbutterfly | Student

Hey I am going to help you break down this question. :D

In Sociology, what things are important to assess when working with older adults?

The key to this answer would be assess and older adults. The first thing you want to look at is the word assess. When you assess something you look at both sides of the fence, the good and the bad. Now second thing you will have to do is decide what type of approaches you are going to use in assessing the older adult. Whether it be a interactionist stance, Marxist stance or a functionalist stance (both can be used though in assessing)

From an interactionist point of view the key points of assessing the older adult would be the family. Why? Because interactionists believe that the family is responsible for Primary socialization which is when a child learns morals and values and the express then in secondary institutions in which morals and values are carried out without the ramification of parents, this is Secondary socialization. Also the second thing in the family that would need to analyzed about the older adult would be the process of Maintaining Adult Personalities which based of Parson is the when the man travels out into the world facing hardships to provide for the family then comes home to relieve stress with the children, assuming this older adult has a family. Or it can be the women who take care of her domestic duties in the household.

Now for the other side of assessing from an functionalist perspective it can argued that the interactionist nuclear family is too shield and over submissive and that in reality the family is actually the cause for mental disorders, as theorized by Liang, and cause much more harm than good. Or from a Marxist perspective the family, thus the adult, is under a constant pressure in capitalist society where the women basically are baby care takers for free making little money.

Hope I helped  :D

parama9000 | Student

There are areas such as whether the older adult takes his children step-by-step and spend quality time with the family, and whether the child benefits more from that approach or whether it harms the child.