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Aging & Culture, Race & Ethnicity -- Research Starters Sociology

By: Wienclaw, Ruth A.;

2009 / EBSCO


As with the rest of society, the population of older adults is heterogeneous across numerous factors. Although some of these factors are irrelevant to the concerns of aging, others are not. In particular, culture, race, ethnicity, and gender have been found to have a compounding effect on the experience of old age. Two major hypotheses have been posited to describe the phenomenon of minority aging. The double jeopardy hypothesis states that the simultaneous effects of aging and one additional factor that negatively impacts the health and welfare of the individual can increase an individual's risk for problems. Others theorists, however, believe that age is a leveler and that differences based on minority status from earlier in life tend to disappear or level out with advancing years. Although the relationship between minority status and old age is complex and still not well understood, it is not necessary to understand this relationship in detail in order to do something about the problems experienced by many elders. It is important that action be taken to not only understand the impact that being a member of these classes has on the experience of old age, but also to set in place programs that will help neutralize any ill effects.