Aging and Dying: a Life Course Perspective

Topics: Sociology, Family, Social sciences Pages: 10 (2904 words) Published: December 3, 2012

Aging is an inevitable; every person realizes that there is a beginning and an end. Accepting death is a life-long learning experience but have many obstacles along the way. A convenient way to measure between time and human behavior is the life course perspective, this analyzes the chronological order of events from the time we are born to our death. The events that include socio-historical locations; timing of lives; geography, heterogeneity or variability; social ties to others; human agency and personal control; and how the past shapes the future. These several and basic tenets characterize the life perspective approach. This perspective uses a non-linear path to help us understand how we get to the individual as a senior. This makes sense because life itself is not linear and many events that occur in life can lead to twists and turns. The advantage of the life course perspective theory is that it focuses on multiple areas of life and how it inter-twine together similar to a web (Bengtson and Allen 1993).

Key Tenets and Discussion

Our path of development is rooted in and modified by conditions and events taking place during the historical period and the geographical location of the person’s household. Examples of these include economic cycles, geopolitical events, social and cultural beliefs. Recessions, wars, and the authority figure of the household shape our views and choices and change the progression of human development. This means that our choices are affected by interaction with people and families within the sociohistorical timeline, and not in a vacuum. The understanding the locations of various generations help researchers and policy makers to identify how to treat seniors from their respective life histories.

(Price, McKenry, and Murphy 2000) said they are three types of time that are central to life course perspective: individual time, generational time, and historical time. Individual time discusses the chronological age, where childhood to old age influence positions, roles and rights in society (Hagestad and Neugarten 1985). Generational time represents the age groups or cohorts, in which people are arranged, based upon their age. For example, the baby boom generation are a group of people born between 1946 and 1964. Historical time refers to large- scale events that affect individuals and families, such as political and economic changes, war and technological innovations. These events lead to changes in jobs, political beliefs or more drastic measures like moving to a new location.

Time can also be projected as a sequence of transitions that are enacted over time (Elder 1985). A transition is a distinct life change or event within a course, for example, being single than married is a distinct life change. A trajectory is a sequence of linked conditions within a theoretically defined range or behavior or experience. An example of a trajectory would be from your education and occupation career. Socially shared ceremonies and rituals, such as graduation and wedding ceremony is regularly supplemented with transitions. Trajectory on the other hand deals with a long-term pathway, with age-graded patterns of development in key social establishments such as education or family. Transitions characteristically result in a change in status, social identity, and role involvement. However, trajectories are long-term patterns of stability and change and can include multiple transitions. The Life course perspective highlights the ways in which transitions, pathways, and trajectories are organized.

Another life course principle is the diversity (heterogeneity) in structures or methods. Not only do we need to look at the average or steady development and transitional tendencies, but also variability. A research conducted by Matilda Riley (1987), supported a model of age stratification- the different experiences of different cohorts, and also helped to...
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