Functionalists on Age Inequality

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Outline and assess the functionalists’ theory of social inequalities The Functionalist theory believes that Social stratification, including age inequality, is necessary for the functioning of a healthy society. Their perspective of social inequality is the belief that "inequality is not only inevitable but also necessary for the smooth functioning of society’. Functionalists believe that Age has become more important in modern society; age provides the function of social integration leading to social cohesion. Parson argues that social cohesion is based on age groups knowing their place and their role. Children must be socialized into their adult roles. Eisenstadt agreed and argued that children have less status then adults. They must be taught skills and knowledge to enable them to perform their adult roles. Decline in death rate and increase in life expectancy over the last 50 years have led to an ageing population. Greater life expectancy in the UK means that a larger number of retired people are being supported by smaller numbers of younger people who are working. In the UK around 20% of the population are retired. At present, many older people rely on a state pension, as they do not have an occupational pension. People who rely on state pensions have limited income; hence, there are many older people who are poor. Help The Aged (2008) suggested that 1.2 million pensioners were living in poverty. Marxists argue that elderly are ignored because they are economically unattractive as consumers. They do not have the disposable income that younger people do. They consequently have little status and power. McKingsley status is lost with age, it begins with retirement, loss of cultural status is due to the declining involvement in society, elderly lose touch with what symbols and acts are culturally significant. On the other hand, functionalists such as Cumming and Henry developed disengagement theory, where they believe the way society treats the elderly has...