Living Reference Work Entry

Mental Health and Illness of the Elderly

Part of the series Mental Health and Illness Worldwide pp 1-24

Date: Latest Version

Sociology of Aging

  • A. LoboAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine and Psychiatry, Universidad de ZaragozaInstituto de Investigación Sanitaria de Aragón (IIS Aragón)Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM), Ministry of Science and Innovation Email author 
  • , C. De la CámaraAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine and Psychiatry, Universidad de ZaragozaInstituto de Investigación Sanitaria de Aragón (IIS Aragón)Psychiatry Service, Hospital Clínico Universitario
  • , P. Gracia-GarcíaAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine and Psychiatry, Universidad de ZaragozaInstituto de Investigación Sanitaria de Aragón (IIS Aragón)Psychiatry Service, Hospital Clínico Universitario

Abstract

The relevance of social factors and not only biological and psychological factors is now considered to be a truism in present-day psychiatry. Aging is certainly related to physiological changes the body goes through during the life course but is also influenced by the social norms and expectations pertaining to different periods in the individuals’ life. The purpose of this chapter is to address both empirical data and theoretical background studied in the discipline sociology of aging. This discipline seeks to understand the social aspects in the process of aging and the challenges encountered as seniors grow older. Different sociological aspects are relevant for psychiatrists; this chapter is written by clinicians, and the emphasis will be placed in sociological subjects relevant to geriatric psychiatrists in particular.

The sections in this chapter review the process of aging, the biological facts, the cultural attitudes, and the social implications, including distinctive social situations in elderly individuals, such as the differences in men/women, retirement, potential dependency, and problems related to caregivers or to economic difficulties. The aging in the population is approached to explain demography changes, including those related to marital status, migration, educational level, or socioeconomic status. Furthermore, this chapter reviews some specific challenges for the elderly, including the ageism, abuse, and stereotypes, and analyzes classical sociological theories of aging. This chapter ends by portraying potential guidelines for actions on aging.

Keywords

Sociology Aging Theories Geriatric psychiatry Ageism Stereotype Elderly