Sociology and Elderly Population

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Status of Aged in India

J. Balamurugan, Research Scholar, Department of Sociology, Pondicherry University.

Dr. G. Ramathirtham, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Pondicherry University.

INTRODUCTION

Ageing is a byproduct of physical, psychological and social processes. While contextualizing the process of ageing, the main thrust of the sociology both as a discipline and movement, is to reflect on how and to what extent transformations in the society and of the individual life influence each other, as individuals of different age categories pass through social system – instructions, values and norms. Sociologists specify three interrelated processes of ageing: physical, psychological and social. First, the physical ageing refers to the internal and external physiological changes that take place in the individual body. Second, the psychological ageing is understood as the developmental changes in mental functioning-emotional and cognitive capacities. Third, the social ageing focuses on the changes such as: how individuals are viewed, what individuals expect of themselves, and what is expected of them from others that individuals experience over the various age categories. However, sociologists are paying attention to the socio-economic and cultural antecedents of the process of ageing. Furthermore, ageing does not mean what an individual’s is able to act rather it facilitates what he/she is expected to act, permitted to act or prohibited from acting.

Ageing bring in its wake a host of changes in body and mind with consequent impact on the life style and social relations. Ageing puts women in India in a particularly disadvantageous position, a position where women in general get marginalized and are meted out a deplorable treatment. During the Pre-Vedic; “old age” and “the elderly” are herms which are common currency in most popular uses and more academic environment. Despite the frequencies with which the terms are used the definition of exactly what is “old age” is problematic.

Academicians have defined old age from various angles one of them is from biological view point. Biologists refer to ageing as “senescence” this is a general term which is used to describe decrease in the efficient functioning of an organism is a natural process which must be distinguished from abnormal processes which bring about pathology and disease. Biologists consider that ageing is the change which occurs in the post reproductive phase of life, resulting in a decrease in the survival capacity of the organism. Ageing is viewed as an involuntary phase in the development of the organism which brings about a decrease in its adaptive capacities.

Another view point of defining old age is through chronology. Chronologists suggest that calendar is frequently useful to define the onset of old age. Their opinion is that ageing is based upon the cultural ascriptions of the society. The age at which old age is thought to start varies indifferent cultures for example in some primitive and tribal society’s old age starts at 60 and in most western industrial countries it starts at 65 to 70 years. Third approach of defining old age is through economic dependency. This approach considers that the experience of ageing and late life can best be understood by looking at the position of the elderly in relation to the labour market and the relationship and social structures that this produces. Emphasis is given to the peripheral status of the elderly in society as dominant age cohorts assume their economic functions.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

The population of India is currently moving toward an old age structure and it is certain that there will be rapid growth in the elderly population in the near future. According to census 2001, India accounts for 7.4 percent elderly population i.e., 76.6 million. The highest proportion of elderly among states and union territories is found...
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