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Aging and The Life Course
Aging and The Life Course: An Introduction to Social Gerontology, 2/e
Jill Quadagno, Florida State University


active euthanasia  Also known as assisted suicide, occurs when a physician, close friend, or relative helps an ill or disabled person terminate his or her life.

active life expectancy  Measure of the number of years a person can expect to live without a disability.

activities of daily living (ADL)  Measure of need for help with basic functions such as eating, bathing, dressing, getting to and from the bathroom, getting in and out of bed, and walking.

activity theory  A theory of aging which states that the psychological and social needs of the elderly are no different from those of the middle-aged and that it is neither normal nor natural for older people to become isolated and withdrawn; also called the implicit theory of aging.

adaptation  A range of behaviors to meet demands; includes developing habits to confront problems and manage frustration and anxiety.

adverse mortality selection process  Those who are at high risk of contracting life-threatening diseases die earlier, leaving a group of relatively healthy survivors.

age cohort  Refers to people who were born at the same time and thus share similar life experiences.

age discrimination  Negative behavior toward older people; acting on the basis of stereotypes.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)  Banned discrimination against workers aged 40 to 65; made it illegal for employers to fire, demote, or reduce the salary of older workers without showing good cause.

age effect  A difference due to chronological age or life course stage.

age grade  Use of age as a social category to group people by status-the expectations for when the transition from one role to another should occur.

age integration theory  a theory that recognizes that societies have both age-segregated and age-integrated institutions can either impede or enhance the participation of the aged.

ageism  A systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old.

age norm  Informal rules, which specify age-appropriate roles and behavior.

age stratification theory  Underlying proposition is that all societies group people into social categories and that these groupings provide people with social identities; age is one principle of ranking, along with wealth, gender, and race.

age structure  The distribution of people across various age cohorts.

age 30 transition  One of Levinson's developmental periods of adulthood; major tasks in this period are establishing a niche in society and developing competence in a chosen craft and then working at succeeding.

age timetable  Similar to age norms but looser and more flexible; informal rules, which specify age-appropriate roles and behavior.

aging in place  The natural aging of an area as the members of the population grow old; often accompanied by the out-migration of young adults; also refers to when elderly people live at home or in a community setting rather than in a nursing home.

almshouse  An institution for the poor.

Alzheimer's disease  Severe organic deterioration of the brain that affects memory, cognitive functions, and personality to a degree sufficient to interfere with normal activities and social functioning; symptoms include impairment of memory, intellect, judgment, and orientation and excessive or shallow emotions; the most common type of dementia.

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)  The largest senior organization and the largest voluntary organization in the United States; lobbies actively on behalf of senior issues.

angina  Chest pain that may precede a heart attack.

aphasia  Involves damage to the speech and language centers in the brain; one of the consequences of a stroke; occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen; patients may be unable to produce meaningful speech or to understand spoken or written language.

arthritis  A chronic disease that causes joint inflammation and its consequences of pain, swelling, and deformity.

assisted living facility  A type of housing that includes assistance with daily activities and 24-hour oversight; caters to a more affluent clientele than board and care homes; usually provides private rooms and baths or small apartments, social and recreational facilities, and individualized care.

basal cell carcinoma  Common type of skin cancer; easily cured.

bean pole family structure  The phenomenon of four or five generations of a family surviving at one time.

bloc voting  When individuals vote as a group on the basis of some characteristic such as age.

board and care home  A facility that provides meals and assistance in basic activities of daily living; ranges from small, unlicensed rooms in a residential setting to hotel-like arrangements housing 200 or more residents.

bridge jobs  Jobs that span the period between full-time employment in a career job and permanent retirement.

capitation  A payment system in which a health maintenance organization receives a flat monthly fee for each patient in the system regardless of what services are performed.

caregiver burden  Difficulty in managing the specific tasks to be performed in caring for the frail elderly.

caregiver stress  The subjective appraisal of the strain on the caregiver.

cataract  A condition in which the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, and light cannot penetrate.

central nervous system  The brain and spinal cord.

cerebellum  A brain structure involved in body movements and, to some degree, balance; located at the back and base of the brain; essential in the fine-tuning of voluntary and involuntary muscular movements.

child dependency ratio  The number of persons younger than 18 relative to those of working age.

chronic disease  Condition for which there is no cure.

chronological age  Number of years a person has lived.

classic aging pattern  Age-related declines in verbal and performance intelligence among people 60 or older.

climacteric  The syndrome of physical and psychological changes that occur in midlife.

clinical depression  A set of symptoms that includes depressed mood, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, difficulties in thinking and concentration, psychomotor disturbances, and suicidal notions.

cognitive psychology  The study of mental processes.

cohort  The aggregate of individuals who experienced the same event within the same time interval.

cohort aging  The continuous advancement of a cohort from one age category to another over its life span.

cohort effect  A difference due to the experiences or characteristics of the particular cohort to which an individual belongs.

companionate grandparenting  Grandparents who focus on emotionally satisfying, leisure-time activities and report an easygoing, friendly style of interaction with their grandchildren.

compression of morbidity thesis  The theory that improvements in health care and prevention will compress the years that an individual will be disabled into the last few years of the life span.

continuing care retirement community (CCRC)  A planned retirement community that provides a continuum of housing arrangements and services ranging from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing care.

continuity theory  A more formal elaboration of activity theory; uses a life course perspective to define normal aging and to distinguish it from pathological aging.

convergence theory  A theory of aging that views old age as a great leveler, which reduces inequality that was evident at earlier stages of the life course.

convoy model of social relations  A theoretical model stating that each person moves through life surrounded by a group of people to whom he or she is related through the exchange of social support; dynamic and lifelong in nature.

coping  A state of compatibility between the individual and the environment so that the individual maintains a sense of well-being or satisfaction with quality of life.

coronary bypass surgery  A procedure to reduce block-age of the blood vessels supplying the heart.

cost-of-living adjustment  Automatic yearly increase in Social Security that is linked to inflation.

countertransition  A life course transition produced by the role changes of others.

creativity  A measure of divergent thinking; the production of alternative solutions to a problem or situation; most elusive mental process to define and measure.

crisis theory  A theory that views the occupational role as the major source of personal validation; perceives the loss of the work role as a wrenching experience that deprives the individual of a job, status, and a meaningful role in society.

cross-linkage theory of aging  A theory of biological aging; states that the accumulation of cross-linked collagen is responsible for many changes associated with aging such as the loss of elasticity of the skin, hardening of the arteries of the circulatory system, and stiffness of joints throughout the body.

cross-sectional research  Research comparing people of different age cohorts at a single point in time.

crowded nest  The trend of young adults returning to the parental home.

crystallized intelligence  Intelligence based on the information, skills, and strategies that people have learned through experience; reflects accumulated past experience and socialization.

deeds of gift  Contracts specifying obligations owed to parents by children in return for inheritance of family property; found in colonial New England.

deferred exchange strategies  Exchanges between individuals over the life course.

defined benefit  A pension plan in which the benefit level is based on years of service and prior earnings; a specified amount that is guaranteed when a worker reaches a given age.

defined contribution  A pension benefit based on the amount that has accumulated in the account, including contributions plus any gains or losses from investments, expenses, or forfeitures; a savings account with certain tax advantages.

dementia  A form of mental illness that mainly occurs in old age.

demographic transition  The shift from high mortality and fertility to low mortality and fertility that causes population aging; occurs in three stages.

demography  The study of the basic population processes of fertility, mortality, and migration.

diagnostic measure  A medical diagnosis of a disease.

diagnostic-related groups  A cost-control measure in Medicare; sets a rate for a patient who is admitted to the hospital with a particular diagnosis; contains costs by setting reimbursement rates in advance rather than letting doctors and hospitals set their own rates and fees.

Disability Insurance  A monthly benefit provided to disabled workers younger than age 65; to be eligible for DI, a worker must be insured by Social Security by having worked 10 years and be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a mental or physical impairment.

disengagement theory  The first formal theory of aging; the view that normal aging involves a natural and inevitable mutual withdrawal or disengagement, resulting in decreasing interaction between an aging person and others.

dual entitlement  A term that describes the benefits of an individual who is eligible for a Social Security benefit as a worker and an additional benefit as a spouse.

early adulthood  One of Levinson's developmental periods of adulthood; ages 17 to 45.

early adult transition  One of Levinson's developmental stages; the era when childhood draws to a close; the developmental tasks are to begin forming an adult identity and to separate from one's family of origin.

early retirement age  The age of eligibility for reduced Social Security benefits, presently set at 62.

early retirement incentive program (ERIP)  Special pension provisions that allow workers to retire early even if they are ineligible for benefits under regular eligibility rules.

earnings test  A limit on earnings for workers 62 to 65 that determines amount of Social Security benefits received.

echo boomers  The generation of Americans born between 1977 and 1994.

economic part-time work  Part-time workers who are unable to find full-time jobs.

EET regime  Refers to the tax treatment of contributions to pension funds; pension funds are exempt (E) from taxation, the pension savings are exempt (E) from taxation, and benefits are taxed (T) as they are withdrawn in retirement.

elderly dependency ratio  The number of persons aged 65 or older per 100 persons of working age.

Elizabethan poor laws  A system of local government and local responsibility for the poor; established criteria for local welfare programs.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)  A law passed by Congress in 1974 to regulate private pensions; required companies to establish minimum vesting standards, to set stringent funding requirements, and to establish methods for reporting plan benefits and finances to workers.

empty nest  Period when a couple is alone together following the departure of children from the home.

encoding  A stage of memory when information that is learned is stored for later use.

entitlement crisis  The perception that entitlement spending is causing the federal deficit, consuming a disproportionate share of the federal budget, and crowding out funds for other social needs.

entitlements  Benefits governed by formulas set in law and not subject to annual appropriations by Congress; people who meet the eligibility criteria automatically receive the benefits.

epidemiologic transition  A shift in the proportion of deaths among the young and the elderly; accompanies the demographic transition; signifies a change in the leading causes of death from infectious diseases to chronic diseases.

erectile dysfunction  The inability to maintain an erection sufficient for penetration or sexual intercourse.

euthanasia  The act of killing or permitting the death of a hopelessly sick or injured individual in a painless way as an act of mercy.

exchange theory  A theory that social interaction between individuals is based on rational calculations and that people seek to maximize their rewards from these exchanges and minimize their costs; exchange theorists argue that interaction between the old and the young decreases, because older people have fewer resources to bring to the exchange.

expansive women  One of Apter's types of midlife women; these women sought fundamental change in their lives in midlife.

extended family  The network of familial relationships, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews outside the nuclear family.

extended family household  Household consisting of several generations, usually parents, their adult children, and their grandchildren.

eye blink classical conditioning  The reflex that makes an individual blink when air is blown into the eye.

family life cycle  The life course stages of the nuclear family.

fee-for-service  A system of reimbursement for health care costs in which physicians set the fees and payments are based on the treatment received; patients have an unrestricted choice of physicians.

feminist theory  The central purpose is to illuminate the gendered nature of society; gender relations are the main subject matter; notions of masculinity and femininity are seen as socially constructed; emphasis is on the different ways aging is experienced by men and women.

fertility rate  A measure of the incidence of births or the inflow of new lives into a population.

filial piety  The Japanese tradition of respect and reverence for the elderly.

financial assets  total wealth minus the value of a home and other real estate assets.

fiscal welfare  Indirect payments to individuals through the tax system.

flexible employment  A type of employment where workers do not become a part of a firm's permanent workforce but rather are hired to do a specific job on a part-time or temporary basis.

fluid intelligence  Refers to reasoning, memory, and information-processing skills; involves the ability to devise novel solutions to unforseen problems; required to identify relationships and to draw inferences on the basis of that understanding.

frail elderly  Older people who depend on others for carrying out their daily activities; they show some mental or physical deterioration and need care from family members.

free radical theory of aging  A theory of biological aging; the view that free radicals contribute to the aging process by forming age pigment and by producing cross-links.

functional age  A definition of age based on how people look and what they can do; in functional terms, a person becomes old when he or she can no longer perform the major roles of adulthood.

functional status  A measure of the extent to which a chronic health problem, either physical or mental, produces a behavioral change in a person's capacity to perform the necessary tasks for daily living so that the help of another person is required.

gender neutrality  An approach that emphasizes reformulating laws in gender-neutral terms.

gender recognition  An approach that presumes that gender equality can only be achieved by taking into account the differences between men and women and taking measures to compensate the disadvantaged sex.

gender splitting  A term used by Levinson to characterize women's life course transitions; takes one of four forms, including the splitting of the domestic sphere and the public sphere as domains for men and women, the presence of the traditional marriage enterprise and the split it creates between the female homemaker and the male provider, the splitting of women's work and men's work, and the splitting of masculine and feminine in the individual psyche.

generation  A term applied to studies of family processes; refers to kinship links.

generational equity  The view that there is a political trade-off between meeting the needs of the young and the old, that the flow of resources to the elderly has been inequitable, and that this issue will create intergenerational conflict.

genetic control theory of aging  A theory of biological aging; the view that the life span is programmed into the genes.

gerontocracy  A community ruled by the aged.

gerontology  The scientific study of the biological, psychological, and social aspects of aging.

glaucoma  A serious condition that can lead to blindness; occurs when fluid cannot leave the anterior cavity of the eye through the normal channels; pressure builds up within the eye, gradually destroying vision.

grandparent career  The life course pattern to grandparent-grandchild relationships.

gray lobby  The organizations that represent the interests of the aged.

health behavior  Activity undertaken by an individual to promote good health and prevent illness.

health lifestyle  A pattern of behavior based on choices and options that are available to people according to their life situations; includes behaviors that directly affect health care, such as having checkups and complying with prescribed treatment as well as decisions about smoking, food, exercise, personal hygiene, alcohol use, and risky behaviors like unprotected sex.

health maintenance organization (HMO)  A health insurance plan run by a financial officer; a group of physicians belong to the HMO and the services provided are monitored by administrators to achieve efficiency and control costs; individuals who are insured through an HMO do not have an unrestricted choice of physicians but rather must choose among doctors contracted by the HMO.

home and community-based services (HCBS)  A range of services provided to the aged in the home; includes personal care such as bathing, dressing, feeding, and grooming, housekeeping, grocery shopping, transportation, medical services, bill paying, and case management.

Home and Community-Based Waiver Services Program (HCBS)  An alternative to nursing home care; a program that allows states to provide the poor and the disabled with a variety of services, including homemaker services, respite care, day care, meals-on-wheels, physical therapy, and help with chores.

hormone replacement therapy  A treatment to eliminate the physical symptoms of menopause and to provide protection against heart disease and osteoporosis.

hospice  A place where the terminally ill are allowed to die easily and at peace; an alternative to the medical, scientific model of dying; central component of hospice philosophy is pain management.

hypertension  High blood pressure.

hypertensive cardiovascular disease  Hyper-tension leading to a heart attack.

immediate exchange strategies  Exchanges between individuals in goods and services at one point in time.

immune function theory of aging  A biological theory of aging based on two discoveries: (1) protective immune reactions decline with age, with the body becoming less capable of producing sufficient quantities and kinds of antibodies, and (2) the aging immune system mistakenly produces antibodies against normal body proteins, leading to a loss of self-recognition; as the immune system becomes less efficient, normal aging occurs.

independent living  living in one's own home; the main living arrangement of older people in the United States.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA)  Way of using the tax code to encourage people to save for retirement; individuals are allowed to put money into special retirement accounts without paying taxes on the income or the earnings.

industrialization  Process of transforming an agricultural economy into an industrial one; predominant characteristics include production by machine rather than by hand, involvement of an increasing proportion of the workforce in manufacturing, the concentration of production in large factories, rapid population increase, and urbanization.

innovative women  One of Apter's types of midlife women; women who were pioneers in a men's world.

instrumental activities of daily living (IADL)  Measure of need for help with such activities as keeping track of money, doing light housework, taking medicine, and running errands.

intelligence  A measure of intellectual ability.

interest groups  Organizations that lobby politicians to take certain actions; may support candidates running for office by informing their members that a certain candidate favors or opposes an issue of importance to them and urging members to vote accordingly.

intergenerational solidarity  A measure of family closeness that includes the frequency of interaction, the amount of interaction, the amount of positive sentiment about family members, the level of agreement about values and beliefs, the degree to which services are exchanged, and the amount of geographical proximity.

involved grandparenting style  Grandparents who take an active role in rearing their grandchildren; frequently they behave more like parents than grandparents; see grandchildren daily, often because they are living with them.

joint and survivor annuities  Type of pension arrangement for married employees in which the worker takes a reduced pension for life and the spouse receives a 50 percent survivor's pension; both husband and wife may agree, in writing, to waive the survivor pension.

joint retirement  A husband and wife retire at the same time.

Kansas City Study of Adult Life  A series of studies designed to identify how people adjusted to normal aging processes; the studies coupled an emphasis on adjustment with measures of social role performance across the life span.

Keys Amendment  First attempt to regulate board and care homes; required states to establish and enforce standards for homes serving residents who receive SSI.

learning  The process of acquiring knowledge and skills.

lentigo  The discoloration or spotting that commonly appears on the face, back of hands, and forearms of people 50 or older.

life course  The interaction between historical events, personal decisions, and individual opportunities; experiences early in life affect subsequent outcomes.

life course framework  An approach to the study of aging that combines the study of the changing age structure with the aging experiences of individuals.

life expectancy  The average number of years people in a given population can expect to live; the mean age at death; a measure of the combined outcome of many births and deaths calculated by taking the sum of the ages of death of all individuals in a given population and dividing it by the number of people in that population.

life review  The process of reminiscing about one's experiences.

life span  The longest number of years any member of a species has been known to survive.

living will  Document in which an individual can specify his or her wishes for treatment in advance in case he or she should become terminally ill.

longitudinal research

long-term care  The range of services and supportive living environments that help the elderly and disabled live independently; also refers to institutional care for those who need more extensive help.

long-term memory  The permanent storage site for past experiences; involves the ability to recall distant people and events; helps people make meaningful connections between the past and the present.

malignant melanoma  Dangerous skin cancer, which can metastasize and send cancerous cells to other parts of the body.

managed care  A form of health care organization; decisions are made by a financial officer.

mandatory retirement  The practice of forcing workers to retire at a given age.

means-test  Eligibility requirement for social benefits that is usually set quite low and accompanied by social stigma; only the very poor are able to qualify for benefits.

median net worth  The total value of all assets (e.g., a house, other property, personal savings) minus any debts.

Medicaid  Enacted in 1965; a program of health insurance for the poor; pays a large share of nursing home costs.

Medicare  Enacted in 1965; a national health insurance program for all people 65 or older who are eligible for Social Security; granted as an automatic right to all qualified workers and their spouses.

Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988  Would have provided extensive benefits; represented the largest expansion of the Medicare program since 1965; repealed three months after it was enacted.

Medicare Part A  Hospital insurance paid for through payroll taxes.

Medicare Part B  An optional program that pays for 80 percent of the cost of physician office visits.

Medigap policies  Insurance policies that pay for health care expenses not covered by Medicare.

memory  The retention or storage of knowledge.

menopause  The permanent cessation of the menstrual cycle.

middle adulthood  One of Levinson's developmental stages; lasts from age 40 to 65 following midlife transition.

middle-old  People aged 75 to 84.

midlife transition  One of Levinson's developmental stages; terminates the era of early adulthood.

migration  The movement of people across borders.

migratory stream  The migration of people from one region to another, such as the movement of older people to the Sun Belt.

modernization theory  The view that nations can be placed on a continuum from least developed to most developed, according to such indicators as the level of industrialization or the degree of urbanization, with those exhibiting certain qualities of social structure termed modern; basic premise is that the aged were revered in the past and that modernization has caused the status of the aged to decline.

mortality rate  The incidence of death in a population.

motor nerves  They carry outgoing information from the central nervous system to muscles and glands throughout the body.

Motor Voter Bill  Requires all states to allow people to register to vote when they apply for driver's licenses or at any number of other designated government agencies.

National Association of Retired Federal Employees  An organization concerned primarily with issues of interest to retired federal employees.

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare  A senior organization founded in 1982; has diverse membership of more than five million members; played a key role in killing the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988.

National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC)  An organization of retired trade union members; has a liberal Democratic bias.

neurons  Brain cells that carry information throughout the body in the form of electrical signals.

new ageism  A tendency to patronize and be overly solicitous to the elderly.

normal retirement age  The age of eligibility for full Social Security benefits, presently 65; will rise to 67 in the twenty-first century.

nuclear family  The family unit consisting of husband, wife, and children.

nuclear family household  Household composed solely of parents and their children.

nursing home  An institutional setting where long-term care to the frail and disabled elderly is provided.

Old Age Assistance  Part of the Social Security Act of 1935; jointly funded and administered by the states and the federal government; converted to SSI in 1972; provided income for the aged poor who had not earned the right to Social Security benefits.

Older Americans Act  Passed in 1965; provides a number of services intended to enhance independent living, including congregate meals, personal care and nursing services, day care, chore services, and meals-on-wheels.

oldest-old  People 85 or older.

ombudsmen program  Watchdogs that monitor the quality of care in nursing homes by investigating complaints by families and residents against facilities, reporting complaints to other regulatory agencies, gathering information, and meeting with those involved in disputes.

osteoporosis  Disease that causes the outside walls of the bone to become thinner and the inner part of the bone to become spongy; in the later stages, symptoms include a loss of height, back pain, and a curving of the upper back or spine, sometimes called a dowager's hump where spinal bones weaken and slowly collapse under the weight of the upper bones.

out-relief  Direct grants of aid to the poor.

Parkinson's disease  A chronic brain disorder that may occur as early as age 30 but is more commonly diagnosed among people 60 or older; signs include a slowing of movement, a stooped posture with the head forward, elbows flexed, a shuffling gait, slurred speech, and a noticeable tremor.

passive euthanasia  Involves withholding or withdrawing medical treatment to the hopelessly ill.

payroll tax  A tax levied on workers and employers to fund social insurance programs; also defined as a contribution to a social insurance pool.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)  The federal agency that assumes responsibility for paying the promised pension benefits owed by firms if a terminated pension plan has insufficient funds to meet its obligations to the workers.

pension-splitting  A practice in which a pension becomes part of a divorce decree.

performance anxiety  A psychological syndrome in which a man becomes anxious about his ability to achieve an erection.

period effect  The impact of an historical event on the people who live through it.

peripheral nervous system  All parts of the nervous system except the brain and the spinal cord; includes the spinal nerves that arise from the spinal cord.

personality traits

plateau phase  Second stage of sexual response cycle, in which maximum level of sexual arousal is attained.

political economy theory  A theory that old age is socially constructed and created through power struggles; highlights the structural influences on aging and emphasizes the relevance of power relationships for understanding how the aged are defined and treated.

population aging  Occurs when the proportion of older people relative to younger generations increases; a term that refers to an increase in the proportion of people 65 or older.

population pyramid  A bar chart that reflects the distribution of a population by age and sex

postfall syndrome  The fear of falling in the elderly who have had a prior fall.

presbycusis  Normal loss of hearing with age.

presbyopia  An inability of the eye to focus on near objects.

primary caregiver  Person who takes basic responsibility for caring for elderly; tends to be a daughter.

primogeniture  The inheritance practice in which a father passes his property on to one child, usually the eldest son.

privatization  The reduction of government responsibility and an increase in the responsibility of individuals for their own welfare; the taking over of government functions by the private sector.

progressive taxes  A method for calculating tax liabilities based on the premise that the higher one's income, the higher the tax rate.

prospective payment system  Instituted a schedule to determine payments for hospital bills of Medicare recipients; estimates what the cost of an average patient with a specific diagnosis would be and how long that patient would need to remain hospitalized.

prospective voting  Voting for a candidate on the basis of promises made during a campaign.

protestors  One of Apter's types of midlife women; had faced early responsibilities that constrained their first years of adulthood; sought ways to develop the spontaneity they had missed earlier.

psychologic fatigue  Monotony in sexual activity that becomes patterned and routine.

qualitative research  Based on open-ended interviews and observation of behavior.

quantitative research  Relies on numerical summaries of the responses of many people and reports the results in statistical form.

race crossover  Among the oldest-old, the mortality rate for African Americans falls below that of whites.

rational choice theory  The theory that individual behavior and attitudes are rationally calculated to further an individual's self-interest.

reality orientation  A form of therapy often used in nursing homes with Alzheimer's patients; patients are continuously reminded of their names, the date, and current events.

regressive taxes  A method for calculating tax liabilities where lower-income people are taxed at the same or a higher rate than affluent people.

remote grandparenting  Grandparents who see their grandchildren infrequently and have a relationship that is mainly ritualistic and symbolic.

replacement rate  The portion of preretirement pay that is replaced by the Social Security benefit.

restrictive covenants  The practice of banning people from neighborhoods on the basis of race, religion, or ethnic origin.

retirement contracts  Detailed contracts between parents and children regarding the parents' rights and the children's responsibilities; found in agricultural societies.

Retirement Equity Act of 1984 (REA)  Protected the pension rights of a spouse in the event of the death of the worker or of divorce.

retrospective voting  The withholding of votes from a candidate on the basis of a judgment of past performance.

reverse mortgages  Plans to pay for long-term care or other needs in old age by selling the individual's home equity back to a bank in exchange for a monthly stipend.

rheumatoid arthritis  Inflammation of the synovial membranes, which line the joint capsule and the cartilage that covers the bones.

role  The expected behaviors associated with a given status; also a status and the behaviors associated with it.

role allocation  The processes by which roles are assigned to individuals and the dynamics of role entry and exit.

role conflict  An inability to meet competing demands of two or more roles; occurs when two or more roles are partially or wholly incompatible.

role reversal  Reversal of parent-child role, with the child becoming the decision maker.

role transition  Refers to the role changes individuals make as they leave school, take a job, get married, have children, or retire.

self-concept  The organized and integrated perception of self; consists of such aspects as self-esteem, self-image, beliefs, and personality traits.

senescence  The study of the biological processes that cause mental and physical decline in old age.

senile purpura  Purple bruises; sites where fragile blood vessels have ruptured.

senior centers  Community-based facilities that provide meals and offer social activities for older people.

sensory nerves  Peripheral nerves that carry incoming messages from the environment to the central nervous system.

sequential retirement  A husband and wife retire in sequence, with either the husband or the wife retiring first while the other continues to work.

sex ratio  The ratio of males to females; determined by the number of males relative to females at birth and by different survival rates over the life course.

sexual response cycle  Four phases of sexual arousal.

shared housing  Program to place elderly homeowners with younger individuals who perform services in exchange for housing.

short-term memory  Working memory; a limited capacity system that keeps memory in consciousness; only lasts a few seconds.

Single room occupancy hotel (SRO)  Apartment dwellings or old hotels, often in dilapidated inner city neighborhoods

social assistance  A type of social benefit; contains eligibility criteria designed to encourage the able-bodied poor to work; derived from the sixteenth-century British system of poor relief.

social clock  The age norms that provide a prescriptive timetable, which orders major life events.

social constructionism  Sociological tradition that places individual intentions, motivations, and actions at the center of social theory; view that human beings are active creators of their own social reality.

social gerontology  The study of the social aspects of aging.

social insurance  Basic purpose of social insurance is to provide economic security over the life course and to prevent people from falling into destitution; distinguished from social assistance in that people contribute to a common pool and share risks; contributors earn the right to benefits.

social movements  Collectivities of people organized to promote or resist change; typically they operate outside the political mainstream.

social role  A set of expectations or guidelines for people who occupy a given position or status, such as widow, grandfather, or retiree.

Social Security  Old-age insurance; public pension system for retired workers who have made payroll tax contributions; also includes benefits for the disabled, widows, and spouses.

Social Security Act of 1935  The first federal welfare legislation for workers; initiated the American welfare state; included programs for retired workers, the unemployed, and dependent children.

Social Services Block Grant  Grants provided by the federal government to the states for a range of social services.

social support system  The network of relatives, friends, and organizations that provide both emotional support, such as making the individual feel loved or comforted, and instrumental support, which refers to help in managing activities of daily living.

somatic mutation theory of aging  A biological theory of aging that genetic damage causes aging of cells and tissues.

somewhat impaired elderly  People who are beginning to experience chronic ailments and need some assistance from family or community service agencies.

spouse benefit  A Social Security benefit paid to the spouse of a retired worker that is equal to 50 percent of the worker's benefit.

stages of dying  Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

stem family  An arrangement whereby parents live with one of their married children, usually the oldest son, who then inherits the family property.

stereotypes  A composite of ideas and beliefs attributed to people as a group or social category.

stroke  A rupture or obstruction of a blood vessel to the brain that damages brain tissue; symptoms include memory deficits, emotional liability, and depression.

structural lag  A perspective that asserts that there is a mismatch between societal needs and individual opportunities; occurs because of age-differentiated structures dictating that education is for youth, work for people in middle age, and leisure for the old.

subculture theory  A theory that people who share similar interests, problems, and concerns will form a subculture; the aged are believed to have a positive affinity for each other.

subjective age identity  How people subjectively define their age; most important factors in determining subjective age identity are activity level and health.

successful aging  The attainment of peak physical and psychological functioning and participation in rewarding social activities.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)  A federal means-tested, social assistance program for the aged, blind, and disabled poor.

support bank  The exchanges made between members of the social support network over the life course.

supportive housing  A variety of group-housing options that include assistance with activities of daily living; designed to help residents stay in one place and avoid or delay the need for institutional care.

suttee  A form of widow sacrifice.

survivor's benefit  A Social Security benefit payable to the widow or widower of a deceased worker; equal to 100 percent of the worker benefit.

symbolic politics theory  Presumes that behavior and attitudes are more strongly linked to personal beliefs than to material interests.

tax expenditure  Special income tax provisions that are implemented through the tax code; designed to accomplish some social or economic goal.

temperament  A person's characteristic, biologically based, emotional style of approaching and reacting to people and situations.

theory of cumulative disadvantage  A theory that people who begin life with greater resources continue to have opportunities to accumulate more of them while those who begin with few resources fall further behind.

theory of intergenerational solidarity  A theory that geographic arrangements will be adjusted over time to reflect the changing needs and resources of different generations.

total dependency ratio  The combined ratio of children and older people to workers.

total institution  Central features are a breakdown of the normal barriers that separate the main spheres of life-sleep, work, and play-and the handling of many human needs by a bureaucratic organization.

Townsend movement  The first major social movement consisting primarily of older people; founded in 1933; named after its founder, Dr. Francis Townsend; dedicated to enacting the Townsend plan, a proposal to give all people aged 65 or older a pension of $150 a month.

traditional women  One of Apter's types of midlife women; stayed within the conventional feminine framework and defined themselves in terms of their family roles.

trait theory  A theory that everyone has most personality traits to some degree, but that everyone also has a core group of traits that define his or her personality; defining traits include five major factors: neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

transition  Refers to the shifts in roles that occur over the life course.

trajectory  A series of transitions such as education, work and retirement.

vascular dementia  A common form of dementia; results from the cumulative effect of a number of small strokes, which eventually impair brain functioning; symptoms include blackouts, heart problems, kidney failure, and hypertension.

veneration  An attitude toward the aged that emphasizes respect, honor, obligation, and deference; also, a feeling of religious awe and reverence that approaches a form of worship.

verticalization  The increase in family linkages between preceding and subsequent generations because of increased life expectancy coupled with reduced fertility.

vested  State of having enough years of service to qualify for a pension benefit.

vesting rules  These specify a minimum number of years a worker is required to be employed by a firm to be eligible for a pension.

voluntary part-time work  Part-timer workers who do not wish to work full-time.

voter turnout  The number of registered voters who actually vote in a given election.

wealth  All financial assets including a home and other real estate.

wear and tear theory of aging  A theory of biological aging; views the body as similar to a machine, like an old car or truck, that simply wears out.

welfare state  The combination of social programs that protect people from the risks of loss of income due to unemployment, disability, divorce, poor health, or retirement.

well elderly  People who are healthy and active, involved in social and leisure activities, often employed or busy with volunteer work, still carrying out family responsibilities, and fully engaged in the life of the community.

White House Conference on Aging  Conferences held every 10 years to present grievances and proposals on issues of interest to older people; way to present issues to the president at an officially recognized forum.

wisdom  The acquisition of practical expertise in everyday life.

young-old  People 65 to 74.