Demographic structure of society – age | Society and Culture | MCAT | Khan Academy

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.

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