The Elderly as Members of Society: An Examination of Social Differences in an Elderly Population
It is ironic that one of the unintended consequences of attempts to improve the circumstances and status of the elderly has been the tendency to describe them in an undifferentiated fashion. Ironic — but understandable: because the more those over a certain age are described as a group with shared experiences and deprivations, the more they are likely to obtain material improvements. While there can be no doubt that by comparison with younger age groups the elderly share a number of deprivations, this must not blind us to substantial differences between the elderly themselves. This chapter is concerned with the internal social differentiation of the distribution of personal resources — social, material, and mental and physical health — between age cohorts, sex groups and social classes. This is followed by a more focused examination of the distribution of these resources between a number of commonly identified risk groups — for example, those who live alone, the childless, recent movers. It ends with a more speculative examination of differentiation through the identification of lifestyle clusters.
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