Chapter summary imageAlthough the U.S. spends more than any other nation on health care, more than 44 million Americans are without health care coverage.

How do Health and Age Affect Stratification?

race, age, social class, and gender affects health; example: people from higher social classes have better access to health care compared with members of society’s lower class, so they generally have better health.

What Theories Exist About the Aging Process?


as people grow older, they reduce their interactions with others—a practice that is unavoidable, mutual, and acceptable to the individual and society.

Conflict Theory:

society places a negative stigma on the elderly, which segregates them from others.

Symbolic Interactionism:

successful aging encompasses health, psycho- logical well-being, role integration, and social engagement.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of the Health Care System in the United States for the Elderly?


the health care system compensates the elderly for the years of hard work they put on the job; it gives retired persons access to good and reliable health care.


the growing elderly population means that costs for health care will continue to rise, and current resources may not last long enough to provide health care for future elderly populations.



  • as people age, they shed old social roles and take on new roles
  • seeing the elderly slow down and approach death inhibits society’s ability to function at full capacity
  • retirement makes older people less important because they are close to death
  • new generation moves forwarddiminishes

Conflict Theory

  • middle-aged people have the most power
  • as the elderly become less productive, their importance in society diminishes
  • the elderly are not respected and ageism occurs

Symbolic Interactionism

  • Cooley suggests that people develop the “self” through interaction
  • life improves by developing new activities, hobbies, roles, and relationships
  • volunteer work is socially engaging and gives a sense of purpose in life

Key Terms


is an unhealthy accumulation of body fat.


is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Social Epidemiology

is the study of the distribution of diseases and health throughout a society’s population.

Sick Role

is the expected behaviors and responsibilities appropriate for someone who is ill.


is the idea that the medical community is the center of many aspects of American society.

Health Care

is the care, services, or supplies related to a person’s health.


is a government-run social insurance program that provides health coverage for people 65 or older.


is a form of government health insurance designed for the poor and disabled.


is the study of aging and the elderly.

“Young Old”

is a cohort that consists of people between the ages of 65 and 75.

“Old Old”

is a cohort that consists of people over the age of 75.

“Sandwiched” Generation

is the generation that takes care of both its children and its elderly parents.


is prejudice and discrimination based solely on age.

Disengagement Theory

states that reduced interaction between older persons and others is unavoidable, mutual, andacceptable to both the individual and society.

Activity Theory

states that lifesatisfaction depends on maintaining aninvolvement with life by developing newinterests, hobbies, roles, and relationships.


1. How does social class affect health?

2. How can television perpetuate stereotypes about people who are obese?

3. Why does the U.S. government reject universal health care plans?

4. Why has life expectancy increased?

5. How do the United States and Japan differ in their perspectives on the elderly?

Where to Start Your Research Paper