Age and Structural Lag: Society's Failure to Provide Meaningful Opportunities in Work, Family, and Leisure

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Matilda White Riley, Robert L. Kahn, Anne Foner
Wiley, Sep 2, 1994 - Social Science - 304 pages
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In twentieth-century industrial societies most of us live longer and healthier lives than ever before in history. Yet the social structures and institutions that provide opportunities for our lives are still marked by age constraints that were appropriate a century ago. Education is still primarily reserved for the young; work and family responsibilities are crowded into the middle years; while leisure and free time are allocated to the added decades of retirement. Even the many vital men and women past age 65, or even 55, who want or need paid jobs are regarded as "too old" to work. Lives have changed, but social structures have not caught up. There is a lag or mismatch between lives and structures. What are the detrimental consequences of this structural lag for individuals and society at large? How do structures change, and how can they be changed to enhance lives at every age? What alternative structures would lessen the burdens of middle age, prepare children for the complexities of the real world, and provide opportunities for productivity, independence, and esteem for older people? Seeking answers to such questions, the twelve chapters in this book bring powerful insights to bear on structural lag from sociology and psychology; and they draw upon history, anthropology, and economics to disclose new perspectives on the past and the present, and new hope for the future. While special attention is paid to structures affecting the old, issues relating to all ages are explored in respect to work, family, education, retirement, and other domains of social life. This is a powerful book, revolutionary in its conceptions and implications, calling for structural changes in society; a new mix of work, family, and leisure. Opening a critical but neglected area, it is the first book publication of a long-range Program on Age and Structural Change (PASC) directed by Matilda White Riley at the National Institute on Aging and involving an international network of scholars. Timely, authoritative, and the only book to offer a comprehensive treatment of this increasingly important social problem, Age and Structural Lag is a valuable resource for psychologists, sociologists, and those interested in human development and aging; for those in professional practice and in policy, both public and private; and for sophisticated readers concerned with major issues of everyday life. As a team of widely known experts, the editors offer a unique blend of psychological and sociological insights to this book on Age and Structural Lag. Riley and Foner are credited with creating the sociology of age, announced some twenty-five years ago in the three volumes of Aging and Society, and followed by an unbroken stream of related publications. Kahn, who collaborated on Aging from Birth to Death, draws on his classic work The Social Psychology of Organizations and his pioneering theories of "person-environment fit" and the "convoy of social support." Yet, it is the specific qualifications of these editors as individual scholars that make this team remarkable. Professor Emerita of Sociology at Rutgers University and Bowdoin College, has been President of the American Sociological Association and chair of key committees of the Social Science Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Gerontological Society. A member of the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Riley is the recipient of countless awards and honorary degrees—the latest from Radcliffe College in 1994. The best known of her publications is Sociological Research. Currently she is Senior Social Scientist at the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health. is Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Public Health at the University of Michigan. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Statistical Association, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Psychological Society. Dr. Kahn’s other books include Organizations and Nation-States and Work and Health. Currently he is Research Scientist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research is Professor Emerita of Sociology at Rutgers University. A longtime member of the American Sociological Association, she has served as Chair of the Section on Aging, and has also held key positions in both the Gerontological Society of America and the Eastern Sociological Society. Dr. Foner’s other publications include Age in Society, Old Age and Aging: New Perspectives, Aging and Retirement, and contributions to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and various professional journals. Currently she is working on a new volume in the Aging and Society series.

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