Introduction to Aging

What you’ll learn to do: evaluate the aging of society and summarize the theoretical perspectives on aging

Two older men sit across from one another at a picnic table outside and are playing chess.

While the landmarks of maturing into adulthood are a source of pride, often celebrated at major milestones like First Communion, Bar Mitzvah, or Quinceañera, signs of natural aging can be cause for shame or embarrassment. Some people avoid acknowledging their aging by rejecting help when they need it, which can lead to physical injury or problems obtaining needed items or information. For example, when vaccinations for the COVID-19 virus became available, U.S. seniors who didn’t have help from family and friends lagged significantly in receiving vaccines; this occurred despite of the fact that seniors were known to be the highest risk group and were the most susceptible to illness and death if they were infected (Graham 2021). Those elderly people who were resistant to reach out for help may have waited too long, and their neighbors or other community members may not have known they needed the help. Why would they take this risk? Researchers aim to uncover the motivations and challenges that may result in these circumstances and behavior.

Although many seniors report that their lives are more satisfying than ever, and their self-esteem is stronger than when they were young, they are still subject to negative cultural attitudes that make them feel invisible and devalued. In this section, we’ll examine aging in America and abroad and look at the theoretical perspectives on aging.


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