Aging and Diversity
eBook - ePub

Aging and Diversity

An Active Learning Experience

Ph.D. Chandra Mehrotra, Lisa Smith Wagner

Share book
  1. 580 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Aging and Diversity

An Active Learning Experience

Ph.D. Chandra Mehrotra, Lisa Smith Wagner

Book details
Book preview
Table of contents

About This Book

As the older population in the United States is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, it is important to understand the characteristics, the potential, and the needs of this population. In this new and fully revised edition of Aging and Diversity, Chandra Mehrotra and Lisa Wagner address key topics in diversity and aging, discussing how the aging experience is affected by not only race and ethnicity but also gender, religious affiliation, social class, rural-urban community location, and sexual orientation and gender identity. Taking this broad view of human diversity allows the authors to convey some of the rich complexities facing our aging population – complexities that provide both challenges to meet the needs of a diverse population of elders and opportunities to learn how to live in a pluralistic society. Mehrotra and Wagner present up-to-date knowledge and scholarship about aging and diversity in a way that engages readers in active learning, placing ongoing emphasis on developing readers' knowledge and skills, fostering higher order thinking, and encouraging exploration of personal values and attitudes.

Frequently asked questions

How do I cancel my subscription?
Simply head over to the account section in settings and click on “Cancel Subscription” - it’s as simple as that. After you cancel, your membership will stay active for the remainder of the time you’ve paid for. Learn more here.
Can/how do I download books?
At the moment all of our mobile-responsive ePub books are available to download via the app. Most of our PDFs are also available to download and we're working on making the final remaining ones downloadable now. Learn more here.
What is the difference between the pricing plans?
Both plans give you full access to the library and all of Perlego’s features. The only differences are the price and subscription period: With the annual plan you’ll save around 30% compared to 12 months on the monthly plan.
What is Perlego?
We are an online textbook subscription service, where you can get access to an entire online library for less than the price of a single book per month. With over 1 million books across 1000+ topics, we’ve got you covered! Learn more here.
Do you support text-to-speech?
Look out for the read-aloud symbol on your next book to see if you can listen to it. The read-aloud tool reads text aloud for you, highlighting the text as it is being read. You can pause it, speed it up and slow it down. Learn more here.
Is Aging and Diversity an online PDF/ePUB?
Yes, you can access Aging and Diversity by Ph.D. Chandra Mehrotra, Lisa Smith Wagner in PDF and/or ePUB format, as well as other popular books in Psychologie & Psychologie sociale. We have over one million books available in our catalogue for you to explore.



Aging and Diversity

  • Why should we focus on aging and diversity?
  • What do we mean by diversity? What does it include?
  • What are the demographics of American elders in terms of each element of diversity?
  • Why is it important to distinguish between (a) heterogeneity within a group, and (b) differences across several groups?
When you hear the words “senior citizen,” what picture pops into your head? An older White man? Although our stereotypes and even our research on aging have historically focused on White males, in reality, the older adult population reflects the colorful diversity of U.S. society. Differences in race/ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, social class, and even rural or urban community location create unique circumstances for these different groups as they age. Consider, for example, the following vignettes:

Vignette 1

Lucinda Williams has always worked throughout her life. Her parents moved their family to the city during WWII when African Americans could find work in the wartime factories. She worked as a waitress to pay for her schooling, she worked as a nurse for 30 years, and even when she retired from nursing due to health reasons, she took care of her grandchildren during the day while their parents worked. Now she is done working, and she celebrates this fact. Her children and grandchildren gently tease her about her “van” in which she travels around visiting her family and taking the occasional trip to Reno to gamble. When they see her pulling up to their house for a visit, they know that they are in for an exciting and fun time. But if any of them asks her to babysit, she’ll say, “No thanks, I’ve done all of that already. Now is my time to live.”

Vignette 2

Freda Santos immigrated to the United States with her husband from the Philippines when she was 20. She has had a variety of jobs in the United States, most recently running a convalescent home out of her house. When her husband became ill with Hepatitis C, Freda took care of him in her home until he recently died. But when her children grew up, they all migrated to another area of the country and Freda missed them. So, she sold her home and joined her family. She now lives with one of her daughters and several nieces and nephews in a large house. They have frequent family gatherings at the house, and Freda is pleased to be able to see all of her children on a regular basis.

Vignette 3

Michael Nelson has spent his adult life making close friends who live around him—he calls them “chosen family” as opposed to his biological family, who cut off relations with him when he told them that he was gay 30 years ago. Michael and his partner Samuel recently celebrated their 25th anniversary by getting married. It had been a lifelong dream for both of them, and they are glad to have lived long enough to see it as a reality. Even though they are now married, they both worry about what will happen when they become ill. They worry that biological family may take over and prevent them from honoring their health care wishes and from being together in their old age. Even if their families do leave them alone, if one of them needs care in a long-term care facility, they aren’t sure that the other partner will be welcome to comfort him there or that the staff and other residents will treat them well.

Vignette 4

Ruth Levy’s husband had always been the driver in their family, but when he became ill ten years ago, she started driving again at 82 years of age. She relished the freedom that driving gave her and often drove her friends to the local shopping mall or grocery store. Recently, she started having traffic accidents. Her children, who live several hours away, enlisted the help of Ruth’s physician and her rabbi to convince Ruth to stop driving. After many difficult conversations, Ruth finally agreed to sell her car. Her retirement community offers frequent shuttles to stores, but Ruth now feels stifled by her lack of freedom. Since giving up her car a year ago, she has withdrawn from her friends and spends most of her time alone in her apartment. At 92, she feels that there isn’t much more left for her to do.

Vignette 5

Sandeep Grewal is 75 and recently retired from a life of hard work in the orchards. He started working as a child on his family’s farm in Punjab, an area that straddles the border between India and Pakistan. When he was 10, he had to quit school to help take care of the family’s cattle and orchards. This hard life took a toll on his parents’ health, and they both died when he was 15. When he received a visa through his brother-in-law who lived in the United States, he took the chance and moved to Yuba City, California, an agricultural town with a large Sikh population from Punjab, India. Given his previous experience working on the farm and his lack of education, he took work in the orchards getting paid only cents to prune each tree. He kept working and he eventually married, raised five daughters, and has been able to see each of them graduate from college. His favorite time of year is in November when Yuba City holds the Sikh parade. Over 100,000 Punjabis gather in Yuba City to celebrate parade day. He laughs when he sees unsuspecting visitors stumble on the town—they seem surprised to see so many people with turbans in such a rural area. After a life of hard work, his body can no longer handle working in the fields, but he cannot deal with the quiet of retirement. He has joined a gym to try and stay healthy and keep his medical conditions under control.

Why Should We Focus on Aging and Diversity?

Why should we care about aging and diversity? Most people are aware of the aging boom that is happening not only in the United States but also throughout the industrialized world. We are all living longer, and as the baby boomer generation ages, we will have more older people than we have ever had before. Adding to this, as younger people delay having children and have fewer children, we will have fewer younger people. This will create an imbalance that we have never seen before with fewer people of traditional working and caregiving age available to support elders. The aging boom helps some to understand why aging is important, and we will discuss additional reasons later, but why should we care about aging and diversity? Diversity is important because the experience of aging is not the same for all people. In fact, some groups of people age significantly better than others and/or live significantly longer. One commonly known example of this is that women tend to live longer than men. But there are many other examples of groups having vastly different experiences of aging that most of us have not heard about. We have amazing examples of people in some groups living healthy, long lives, and we have challenging examples of people in other groups living shorter lives with increased disability. For example, life expectancy ranged from 86.7 years for Asian American women to 68.7 years for Black men in the U.S. in 2001. We have a wonderful opportunity to learn from those groups that are aging well and have a responsibility to figure out what causes other groups to die younger and to experience increased difficulties in old age.
As a society, we have accomplished feats never seen before as we cured acute diseases and increased longevity to the point that the majority of us live to ages that were a rarity only 100 years ago. Our next opportunity and challenge is to figure out how to help all of us have an equal opportunity to live long and healthy lives through old age. We do this by studying aging and diversity.
What we learn from working with people of different genders, races, ethnic groups, and social classes deepens our understanding of aging and old age and influences the research we undertake, the programs we design, and the services we provide. We believe that interacting with diverse populations, listening to their voices, and developing an understanding and appreciation of their aging experience are likely to yield new insights, create a fusion of horizons, and provide new lenses through which to view the multiple social worlds that exist in the same communities. Trying on different lenses can help us see significant aspects of social reality that we may have overlooked in the past (Stoller & Gibson, 2000). The new attitudes and insights that we develop may, in turn, shape what research questions we ask, what data we collect, how we collect these data, and how we interpret our observations. For example, by observing how adult daughters in different ethnic groups provide care to older relatives while at the same time meeting the demands of other roles, we may design creative research to explore the burden and rewards of providing care to frail elders from multiple perspectives—perspectives we may not have considered earlier. In addition, what we learn from working with ethnic and cultural minorities may also be useful in designing new programs and services for the mainstream population. For example, the knowledge of how religion and spirituality help African American elders in coping with stress and losses may be useful as we work with members of other groups who are experiencing difficulty in coping with recent losses. Similarly, drawing upon what we learn from the grandparenting role played by elders in Native American, African American, and Asian American families, we can design effective training programs for grandparents from the mainstream population. In short, being knowledgeable about the experiences, traditions, and values of different genders, races, ethnic groups, and social classes will enrich our understanding of aging and old age and will prepare us to live and work in a pluralistic society.

What Do We Mean by Diversity?

As you may recall from the earlier vignettes, diversity is more than just the color of someone’s skin. Instead of assuming that all people are the same and that they all have the same experiences, when we talk about diversity we often focus on the vast range of human experiences that are created by differences between people. There are many characteristics that people can differ on, for example, gender, age, community location, etc. When a group of people shares the same difference (for example, they are all women, or they are all the same age), this difference creates social categories. When we talk about diversity, we are looking at differences shared by a group of people that may affect the experiences that a person from this group has in life as well as how people from this group are viewed and treated by others. In this text, we use the term diversity to refer to these social category differences between groups of people. Of course, even though people are grouped together by a shared social category, people within a group can be very different from one another. These within-group differences refer to their heterogeneity. Recognizing the importance of both diversity between groups and heterogeneity within groups is essential for understanding the full spectrum of aging. Historically, aging research has focused on the mainstream population or on what was perceived to be the majority or dominant group. We will examine the aging experience of people from different ethnic and cultural groups, paying close attention to how the different elements of diversity (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status) intersect with each other, creating different aging experiences.

Aging and Diversity Online: Major Websites on Aging

The Internet provides a vast array of information on aging, diversity, and even some information on aging and diversity. One difficulty of the Internet is wading through the multitude of hits to find relevant sites with up-to-date, trustworthy information. Throughout the text, we will list websites that are related to the points we discuss. In addition to providing relevant background information, these websites will help you find areas of interest that are beyond the scope of this text. Major websites that provide information on aging in general are listed below:
  • National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and “leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life.”
  • The Gerontological Society of America (GSA). GSA is a professional organization that provides researchers, educators, and service providers with opportunities to improve the quality of life as people age.
  • The American Society on Aging (ASA). ASA is a diverse, multidisciplinary association whose goal is to “support the commitment and enhance the knowledge and skills of those who seek to improve the quality of life of older adults and their families.”
  • American Psychological Association (APA). APA is an excellent resource for researchers, service providers, educators, and students interested in psychology. APA has 53 divisions that focus on different areas within psychology. At least six of these have particular relevance to aging and diversity: Division 9, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI); Division 12, Society of Clinical Psychology; Division 20, Adulthood and Aging; Division 35, Society for the Psychology of Women; Division 44, Society for the Psychological Study of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual issues; and Division 45, Society of the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues.
  • American Geriatrics Society (AGS). AGS is a nationwide society of geriatrics health care professionals dedicated to improving the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Members include geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, and other health care professionals.
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW). NASW is the largest membership organization for professional social workers in the world. NASW works to develop the professional growth of its members, maintain standards, and advance sound social policies. The organization has eight practice areas with at least six of them relating to issues in this book: Aging, Behavioral Health, Clinical Social Work, Ethnicity & Ra...

Table of contents