Experience, Social Structure and Later Life: Meaning and Old Age in an Aging Society

  • Dale Dannefer
  • Robin Shura
Part of the International Handbooks of Population book series (IHOP, volume 1)

By definition the work of demographers entails not only analytical detachment but also the existential reductionism of personally momentous events to single datapoints. It may seem paradoxical that the assemblage of such discrete and singular bits of information for a society’s population can reveal patterns that provide key insights into the character of both intimate and complex aspects of individual experience and of cultural ideals. Indeed, it is not possible to understand social change in either the domains of the cultural (the collective symbolization of ideas and values) or the personal (the meaning-making processes and struggles within individuals’ everyday lives) without understanding demographic patterns and their role in shaping the domains of culture, value and individual opportunity. Nowhere can the impact of demographic patterns on ideas, values and meaning be more clearly seen than in the matter of human age.


Baby Boom Demographic Transition Aging Society Late Modernity Second Demographic Transition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Achenbaum AW (1978) Old age in the new land: The American experience since 1790. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MDGoogle Scholar
  2. Baars J (2006) Beyond neomodernism, antimodernism, and postmodernism: Basic categories for contemporary critical gerontology. In: Baars J et al (eds) Aging, globalization and inequality: The new critical gerontology, Amityville. Baywood, NY pp 17–42Google Scholar
  3. Braverman H (1974/1998) Labor and monopoly capital: The degradation of work in the twentieth century, 25th anniversary edition. Monthly Review Press, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  4. Carstensen LL, Fung HH, Charles ST (2003) Socioemotional selectivity theory and the regulation of emotion in the second half of life. Motiv Emot 27(2):103–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chudacoff H (1989) How old are you? Age consciousness in America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  6. Crystal S, Waehrer K (1996) Late life economic inequality in longitudinal perspective. J Gerontol Soc Sci 51B:S307–S318Google Scholar
  7. Dannefer D (1984) Adult development and social theory: A paradigmatic reappraisal. Am Sociol Rev 49:100–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dannefer D (1999) Bringing risk back in: The regulation of the self in the postmodern state. In: Schaie KW, Hendricks J (eds) The evolution of the aging self: The societal impact on the aging process. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Dannefer D (2003) Cumulative advantage/disadvantage and the life course: Cross-fertilizing age and social science theory. J Gerontol 58B(6):S327–S337Google Scholar
  10. Dannefer D, Patterson RS (2007) The second demographic transition, aging families, and the aging of the institutionalized life course. In: Uhlenberg P Schaie KW (eds) Impact of demographic changes on health and well-being in the elderly. Springer, New York pp 212–229Google Scholar
  11. Dannefer D, Sell RR (1988) Age structure, the life course and aged heterogeneity: Prospects for theory and research. Compr Gerontol 2:1–10Google Scholar
  12. Dannefer D, Stein P, Siders R, Patterson RS (2008) Is that all there is? The concept of care and the dialectic of critique. J Aging Studies 22:101–108 (April)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deci EL, Ryan RM (1985) Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. Plenum Publishing, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Demos J (1978) Old age in early New England. AJS 84: (Supplement: Turning Points: Historical and Sociological Essays on the Family) S248–S287Google Scholar
  15. Derber C (1982) Professionals as workers: Mental labor in advanced capitalism. GK Hall, Boston, MAGoogle Scholar
  16. Erikson EH (1978) Adulthood. WW Norton, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  17. Fischer DH (1978) Growing old in America. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  18. Gilleard C, Higgs P (2000) Cultures of ageing: Self, citizen and the body. Prentice Hall, Harlow, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  19. Gilleard C, Higgs P (2005) Contexts of ageing: Class, cohort and community. Polity, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  20. Guttmann D (1987) Reclaimed powers: Toward a new psychology of men and women in later life. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Haber C (2006) Old age through the lens of family history. In: Binstock RH,George LK (eds) Handbook of aging and the social sciences, 6th edn. Elsevier, Burlington, MA pp 59–75Google Scholar
  22. Hall GS (1904) Adolescence: Its psychology and its relations to physiology, anthropology, sociology, sex, crime, religion, and education. 2 vols. Appleton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Hagestad GO, Uhlenberg P (2005) The social separation of old and young: A root of ageism. J Soc Issues 61:343–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hagestad GO, Uhlenberg P (2006) Should we be concerned about age segregation? Some theoretical and empirical explorations. Res Aging 28(6):638–653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hughes ME, Waite L (2007) The aging of the second demographic transition. In: Uhlenberg P, Schaie KW (eds) Impact of demographic changes on health and well-being in the elderly. Springer, New York pp 179–211Google Scholar
  26. Kett J (1977) Rites of passage: Adolescence in America: 1790 to the present. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Land KC, Yang Y (2006) Morbidity, disability and mortality. In: Binstock RH George LK (eds) Handbook of aging and the social sciences, 6th edn. Elsevier, Burlington, MA pp 41–58Google Scholar
  28. Laslett P (1989) A fresh map of life: The emergence of the third age. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  29. Lesthaeghe R (1995) The second demographic transition in western countries: An interpretation. In: Mason KO Jensen A-M (eds) Gender and family change in industrialized countries. Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK pp 17–62Google Scholar
  30. Lesthaeghe R, Neidert L (2006) The second demographic transition in the United States: Exception or textbook example? Popul Dev Rev 32(4):669–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Levinson DJ (1978) The seasons of a man’s life. Knopf, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  32. Levinson DJ, Levinson JD (1994) The seasons of a woman’s life. Knopf, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  33. Lynd RS, Lynd HM (1929) Middletown: A study in American culture. Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  34. Moen P, Spencer D (2006) Converging divergences in age, gender, health, and well-being: Strategic selection in the third age. In: Binstock RH, George LK (eds) Handbook of aging and the social sciences, 6th edn. Elsevier, Burlington, MAGoogle Scholar
  35. Morss J (1990) The biologising of childhood: Developmental psychology and the Darwinian myth. Psychology Press, New York, NY, pp 127–144Google Scholar
  36. Myles J, Pierson P (2001) The comparative political economy of pension reform. In: Pierson P (ed) The new politics of the welfare state. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 302–333Google Scholar
  37. O’Rand AM (1999) Risk, rationality, and modernity: Social policy and the aging self. In: Schaie KW, HendricksJ (eds) The evolution of the aging self: The societal impact on the aging process. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Pampel FC (1981) Social change and the aged: Recent trends in the United States. Lexington Books, Lexington, MAGoogle Scholar
  39. Quadagno JS (1988) The transformation of old age security: Class and politics in the American welfare state. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  40. Riley MW (1973) Aging and cohort succession: Interpretations and misinterpretations. Public Opinion Quarterly 37: 35–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Riley MW, Johnson M, Foner A (1972) Aging and society, Vol. III: A sociology of age stratification. Sage, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. Riley MW, Kahn RL, Foner A (1994) Age and structural lag: Society’s failure to provide meaningful opportunities in work, family, and leisure. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Riley MW, Riley JW Jr (1994) Age integration and the lives of older people. Gerontologist 34(1):110–115Google Scholar
  44. Schulz JH, Binstock RH (2006) Aging nation: The economics and politics of growing older in America. Praeger, Westport, CTGoogle Scholar
  45. Schulz JH, Borowski A (2006) Economic security in retirement: Reshaping the public-private pension mix. In: Binstock RH, George LK (eds) Handbook of aging and the social sciences, 6th edn. Elsevier, Burlington, MA, pp 360–379Google Scholar
  46. Scourfield P (2007) Helping older people in residential care remain full citizens. Br J Soc Work 37:1135–1152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Thomas W (1996) Life worth living: How someone you love can still enjoy life in a nursing home. Van der Wyk & Burnham, Acton, MAGoogle Scholar
  48. Uhlenberg P (1988) Aging and the societal significance of cohorts. In: Birren JE, Bengtson VL (eds) Emergent theories of aging, Springer, New York, pp 405–424Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dale Dannefer
    • 1
  • Robin Shura
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of SociologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  2. 2.Case Western Reserve UniversityCleverlandUSA

Personalised recommendations