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Demographic structure of society - age

Created by Sydney Brown.

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Video transcript

Voiceover: Let's take a quick look at the demographic of age. Sociology often looks at different age cohorts. A cohort is simply a group of people, but here we're looking specifically at different age groups or generations, because these people all lived through the same certain events through a certain time that affected their lives similarly. The generation known as the Baby Boomers make up a large portion of the population in the United States and are now getting up into their 60s. This cohort all shared similar experiences growing up through the post-World War II period. These people are all gradually leaving the work force, opening up jobs for younger people, but this also means they may become reliant on their families or society for support, depending on their financial status. In fact, about 10 percent of the elderly in the United States currently live below the poverty line. The generation just older than the Baby Boomers is the Silent Generation, who were born during The Great Depression and World War II. The oldest people alive today were born during the first quarter of the 20th century and are known as the GI Generation. Because of the new advancements in medical technology, people are living longer and in better health. It is estimated that by 2025, about a quarter of the population of North America will be 65 years old or older. Right now, only about 13 and a 1/2 percent of the population is over 64 years old. Look at that, it's going to almost double in less than two decades. And remember, these are percentages, not the actual numbers of people. The reason we look at the age 65 is because that is when many people retire and no longer contribute to the workforce. You can look a the dependency ratio to see how many people are dependent on others for their living. The dependency ratio is a solely age-based measurement that takes the number of people aged 14 and under and the number of people aged 65 and up, who are typically not in the labor force, and compares that to the number of people aged 15 to 64, who typically are part of the productive labor force. The higher the ratio, the more dependent people there are in a population. But, living longer enables older residents to contribute to the workforce for many more years, and perhaps can slow down the inflow of the elderly into institutions, like nursing homes. This is a good thing, but the big problem is that as we get older, our bodies begin to break down. Chronic illnesses and health problems like arthritis, dementia, and visual or hearing impairments affect the quality of life for millions of people. Because of the slowly deteriorating state of the human body, older people are five times more likely to use health services than younger people. But many times a person's age can affect what kinds of medical insurance they can get. And this creates an inequality in heath care, a discrimination based on age. But hey, getting old is good, it means that our global health is improving. But with the improved health comes a social responsibility to the older generations. They worked and volunteered for their society for many years and as they age there will be a need for healthcare professionals who specialize in old-age care and prevention of age-related diseases, as well as a social side of providing long-term care and age-friendly services so people can live fuller lives. Also important, is the need for society to readjust its expectations of old age. Elderly people are just as essential to a community as the working age people. With the right encouragement and resources, they can continue to contribute to the cultural, social, and economic well-being of the society, even after they leave the workforce. As people age, they are affected by their environments, but their environment is also affected by them. There are many theories about this aging process and how it is seen by society. If you look at the life course theory, aging is a social, psychological, and biological process that begins from the time you're born and continues until you die. The biological processes change as people live longer, which has affected the social process. Age-based expectations no longer apply as they once used to, when you see an 80 year old tearing up the ski slopes or getting a master's degree. You can't tell someone's age simply by a number anymore. Age stratification theory suggests that you can look at age as a way of regulating the behavior of a generation, while activity theory looks at how the older generations view themselves. According to this theory, certain activities and roles, like jobs, are lost due to old age. Those social interactions need to be replaced so older adults can maintain morale and well-being. Disengagement theory suggests that older adults and society separate, like when someone retires from work, it assumes that they become more self-absorbed as they age, so the separation allows for self-reflection. But, that considers elderly people who remain involved in society as not adjusting to old age well, which is rather debatable. Continuity theory suggests that people try to maintain a same basic structure for their lives over time. As people age, they make decisions that preserve that basic structure and use it to adapt to the external changes of society and the internal changes of aging. Our older generations continue to age and adapt and society has had to adapt with them. More elderly people means the need for old-age health professionals and long-term care's on the rise, but it also means that a great cultural, social, and economic resource will be available to society for many years to come.