Age stratification refers to the placement of individuals into groups as per their age status age stratification plays an integral role in determining the amount of youth, adults or old age people in the society. We all go through the process of aging. This process is inevitable. Human beings transform from young to adults to old age people. However, our society has different ways of treating people in different age groups. People belonging to different age strata’s are perceived and treated differently. Adults are considered the most competent people in the society. They’re paid more as it is believed that they will contribute more to the society they live in. Contrary to this old age and young people still in their schools and universities are considered to contribute the least to the society. They are differentiated from the rest of the society. They are even mistreated sometimes. Age stratification helps in understanding how society is divided regarding age groups. Inequalities are revealed through age stratification system. Age stratification also reveals important figures and information about the society. It reveals the number of people belonging to each age group, number of dependents, numbers of adults or children. Age stratification system helps the government to make important decisions regarding availability and distribution of resources. If the population has a high number of adults, the government needs to think about initiating more employment opportunities for them. If the population has a high number of old age people, the government needs to pay more attention to hospitals and medical expenses. In the same way, more universities and schools need to be opened in case if the population has mostly youth. Thus age stratification plays an integral role in deciding how to locate resources and reveals important information regarding age distribution of the society. Important decisions can be made through information revealed by age stratification system.
A lot of research has been done in the field of age stratification and how it reveals critical information regarding inequalities. Age stratification is one way of understanding why people of particular age group are treated differently. The reason why people belonging to different age groups are oppressed or mistreated may be defined by the way we look and perceive people of different age groups. A lot of research has been done in this repetitive field. Most of the research is focused on content stratification than approach stratification. Content stratification is relatively simple and straightforward to explain as compared to approach stratification system. A huge amount of research studies are available to explain the phenomenon of content stratification. Content stratification points out differences based on differences that determined by age, gender, race, color, background and culture to which individuals belong to. Content stratification explains discrimination made by age, races, gender, color or cultural background. Racial discrimination can be better explained through content stratification. Approach stratification pays much emphasis on power distribution and how differences are made based on the perception of power distribution among different strata’s. Limited research is available in this field. Approach distribution has a very different way of explaining why power distribution concept plays an integral role in the way people perceive and treat others. Old age people are considered to hold less power than adults having their businesses or jobs, thus old age people are usually considered incompetent people of the society. Power distribution concept does not stop here. In workplaces, people with high power and designation are paid more and have higher authority than people at low designation thus holding less power and authority.
The concept of aging and age stratification was first determined by Riley and his colleagues. According to him, aging is a process. This process defines how one enters to old age by taking into account biological changes and psychological developments. Riley also defined aging as a structure. He suggested how aging is all about fitting into different roles of life. Age stratification firstly defines and conceptualizes the concept of aging regarding both structure and process as defined by Riley. The age and society paradigm explain an important concept about how people belong to different age group move across the social structure. These social structures are both age and time-related. Society and age paradigm explains how people assume different roles with the passage of time and how they perform them. Allocation refers to the designation of special roles to individuals as they age. Socialization is a process that explains how people respond to each role in a particular social structure. Society and age paradigm also explains how social structure, age process and age cohorts are interdependent (W, 1998).
Age system of inequality is defined how young, middle and old age people differ from each other. Each age group in age strata is defined concerning biological, psychological or chronological age. The size of each age strata is different. The composition varies too. Each stratum in the age stratification system differs by age and the extent of the contribution that each particular age group makes in the society (McMullin, 2000).
Functionalism theories suggest how different parts of society operate to ensure smooth working of the society. Their theories have been developed with this approach. According to functionalism theories people who are active in early years of life are more likely to be active citizens in later years of life. It’s easier for active people to transit through different phases of life. Disengagement theory suggests how people withdraw themselves from the society they live in and social relationships. There are three reasons why people do so. The first is that old age people assume that they will eventually die. The second reason is they are neglected and disengaged. The third reason why they withdraw themselves from the society is that they have difficulty in adapting to new roles in life. Activity theory explains how being active and socially involved contributes to the adjustment of new roles as one age. Continuity theory explains how aging people make choices to maintain an equilibrium and balances between roles and structures by making important decisions regarding their future.
Conflict theory assumes that different social group has different power. All social groups in relatively an unstable society. They compete with one another for power distribution and resource allocations. Modernization theory suggests that old age people have lost their power due to technological innovation, modernization, and industrialization. Exchange theories identify how old age people as they become dependent on others, they must comply with the will of others for others to accept them. Age stratification theories also fall under conflict theories.
One example that explains how old age people are discriminated is explained by the concept of ageism in healthcare. Usually, doctors and nurses pay less attention to aging people than young ones. However, aging people suffer from more [psychological and physical disorders and are at the mercy of others. Another example of how aging people are discriminated is explained by the unequal distribution of healthcare resources to old age people regardless of the fact that societies are aging faster than before. People leave old age people in nursing homes. They do not care about them or how much these people need love and affection. Old age people are considered the useless part of the society.
McMullin, J. A. (2000). Diversity and the State of Sociological Aging Theory. The Gerontologist, 517-530.
W, R. M. (1998). On the significance of age in sociology. Social structures and human lives, 24-45.