Research in Social Gerontology: Social Exclusion of Aging Adults

  • Elaine WethingtonEmail author
  • Karl Pillemer
  • Andrea Principi


The factors hypothesized to increase vulnerability to social exclusion among older adults include aging-related characteristics such as deteriorating health, retirement, decreases in income, separation from former social networks, discrimination and prejudice against older people (ageism), and lack of community resources that promote interaction with others. Older adults with a lifetime of material disadvantage are particularly at risk for social exclusion. Gerontologists have focused for many years on the societal, social, and personal factors that may produce social exclusion among older adults and lead to negative impacts on health and well-being. Gerontologists have studied the process of maintaining social engagement and connections across life; social integration (the state of being connected to others) has been established as a fundamental determinant of health, not only among older adults but across the life course. Personal perceptions and experiences of age stereotyping and discrimination based on age have also been associated with the health and well-being of older adults. In this chapter, we review empirical research studies of social isolation, social integration and engagement, and ageism and how they are related to the well-being of older adults. We also discuss how social interventions based on volunteerism may help prevent or mitigate social isolation among older adults who are most at risk of social exclusion and also possibly counter societal ageism.


Aging Social isolation Social engagement Ageism Life span development Volunteerism 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine Wethington
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karl Pillemer
    • 1
  • Andrea Principi
    • 2
  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Centre for Socio-Economic Research on AgeingAnconaItaly

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