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Aging in the New Millennium: A Global View  

Terry Tirrito

College of Social Work, University of South Carolina,
Columbia, South Carolina, United States

University of South Carolina Press: Columbia, South Carolina

Table of Contents

Chapter One
Global Aging/1

Chapter Two
Aging in America/33

Chapter Three
Life Expectancy/60

Chapter Four

Chapter Five
A Biopsychosocial Perspective of Aging/91

Chapter Six
Sociological Theories of Aging/118

Chapter Seven
Health and Disease/131

Chapter Eight
Attitudes about Aging/150

Chapter Nine
Experiences of Aging for Women, Gay Men and Lesbians, and Ethnic and Minority Older Adults/168

Chapter Ten
Programs and Services for Older Adults/190

Chapter Eleven
Global Impact of the Longevity Revolution/217

Chapter Twelve
Emerging Issues/231


In geronotological research new data evolve continuously. Gerontology is an exciting field because we are all neophytes who are learning how to age. This book presents concise information on the processes of aging and the impact of social and economic trends on the aging individual.

Geronotological journals and books and national and international aging conferences report challenging findings regarding the biopsychosocial aspects of aging. Professional associations such as the Gerontological Society of America, the American Society on Aging, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, the European Association for Gerontology, the Pan American Association for Gerontology, and the International Federation on Aging present new developments in research and practice. New Fields of study constantly emerge such as financial gerontology, religious gerontology, elder law, nutrition and aging, psychology of aging, and social gerontology. Specific areas of study in architecture, marketing, business, and economics add a focus on aging to their inquiries. Globally, new programs and services emerge as governments and policymakers meet the challenges of aging populations.

Within its twelve chapters, this book presents a global overview of essential information for professionals, practitioners, and lay persons interested in aging. Other books are available that offer exhaustive material in gerontology, but this book was written to present the reader with concise and essential information on current research and practice, and topics are presented that are essential to understanding the aging process and societal impacts upon this process. The book, based on many years of study and professional work in the field of aging, concludes with thoughts about courageous aging as a challenge for the future.

Chapter One

This chapter describes the growth of the aging population worldwide and the social and economic impact of this demographic explosion in developed and developing countries.

Chapter Two

Chapter Two presents demographics of older persons in America including the baby boomers, the old-old, and the characteristics of racial and ethnic groups - specifically African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.

Chapter Three

This chapter reports on changes in life expectancy. Included are data for life-expectancy trends in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and South America. Unprecedented changes in life expectancy are, therefore, the numbers of older adults globally are attributed to advances in medical technology, better health-care systems, and changes in lifestyle habits. The concepts of active life expectancy are dependency ratio are explained.

Chapter Four

Chapter four focuses on longevity and the theories and studies of lifestyle behaviors that contribute to long life, including genetics, caloric restriction, exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle or behavior. Well-known theories are included such as the compression of morbidity theory and the contrasting perspective of increased chronic frailty with age.

Chapter Five

Chapter Five presents are overview of biopyschosocial theories, perspectives of the causes and factors that influence the aging person, and psychological issues such as memory, learning, intelligence, and personality. Biological theories include the wear-and-tear theory, the cellular theory, the error catastrophe theory, and the somatic theory. The social environment of older persons - including marriage, adult children, widowhood and divorce, employment and retirement, sexuality, living arrangements, grandparenthood, religion/spirituality, and leisure activities - are examined as they impact the quality of life of older persons.

Chapter Six

This chapter describes the integration of sociological theories into aging theories - such as the disengagement theory, activity theory, social exchange theory, and continuity theory - and their influence on program planning, service delivery, and public policymaking.

Chapter Seven

Physical and mental health issues and information about chronic and acute diseases and the epidemiology (incidence and prevalence) of these diseases are included, along with material on depression, Alzheimer's disease, alcoholism and drug abuse, and anxiety disorders.

Chapter Eight

This chapter presents myths, stereotypes, and research on the attitudes of both young persons and the elderly about the aging process. The material also includes attitudes of professionals about working with older adults and the attitudes about aging in other countries.

Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine discusses the experiences of aging for women, gay men and lesbians, and ethnic groups.
Chapter Ten

This chapter focuses on programs and services for older persons including an overview of major public-support programs and home care, hospice, adult day care, nursing homes, respite care and recreation, nutrition, housing, elder abuse, education, and intergenerational programs. Case examples are included.

Chapter Eleven

This chapter outlines the impact of the longevity explosion on political, social and economic systems.

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve concludes with a discussion of emerging future and unresolved issues such as longevity versus quality of life, public-policy choices versus private choices, interdependence or intergenerational conflict, spirituality and religion, assisted suicide and the right to die, and a proposal for courageous aging. Research studies, statistics, current knowledge, and future trends are presented to provide the reader with current and essential information regarding concepts, theories and issues in aging. Internet sites, books, and journals are suggested for further study of selected topics. It is the author's hope that learning about aging with inspire courageous aging and will promote future interest in gerontological research.


This book began with a chapter on aging around the world, which covered life expectancy worldwide; the world's oldest countries; and the social and economic impact of global aging in Asia, Oceania, Europe, and South America. Aging in America focused on the old-old, baby boomers, and ethnic populations, as well as the social and economic characteristics of older Americans, with a report from a study of the concerns of older Americans.

The discussion of life expectancy presented statistics and research for developed and developing countries on life expectancy, as well as gender and ethnic differences in life expectancy. This discussion included theories of the causes of increased life expectancy, active life expectancy, and contrasting perspectives of implications of long life. With this basis, some factors that influence longevity were described, including genetics, personality, social class, and lifestyle considerations (diet, food restrictions, vitamin consumption, exercise, and smoking).

Next, the physical and mental diseases that most commonly are found in older populations were briefly discussion and additional references were suggested for further study. Psychological factors including attitudes about aging and myths about aging and the aged, are essential for understanding age-related behaviors. The diverse early experiences of women, ethnic minorities, and gays and lesbian older persons predict the future of these groups as they age.

Finally, personal and professional preparation is necessary to understand the impact of the longevity explosion on political systems, businesses, health-care systems, and social systems. Unresolved issues are the agenda for the next millennium.

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