GERO Paper

1. Discuss the concept of cumulative disadvantage. How does this concept apply to older adults in the areas of health, economics and relationships? How do gender, ethnicity and class affect cumulative disadvantage?

Historical events of the last years led to intensive social and economic stratification of the population in the whole world. Social polarization is caused by cumulative nature of social processes, concentrating wealth on one pole and poverty on the other. “In sum, a variety of theories and data suggest that the processes by which health changes with age may be importantly stratified by socioeconomic status” (House et al., 1994).

On average, we should see the largest socioeconomic differentials in health in middle and early old age because these age groups are most likely to be characterized by both sizable socioeconomic differentials in exposure to risk factors and substantial impact of the risk factors. (House et al., 1994)

Therefore, the establishment of the high status and its further increase by high-resource groups (process of “cumulative advantage”) is most probable, and representatives of low-resource groups in the conditions of competitive society appear to be the main candidates for “deepening cumulative disadvantage” or accumulation of adverse social circumstances.

The most large-scale level of reproduction and inequality deepening are connected with a tendency to the formation of the world investment environment and integration of the national markets of the capitals known as “globalization”. For example, “The complex interaction of medical, social, and economic factors that affect women’s wellness as they age requires a new paradigm that bridges the gap between those who are concerned about aging issues and those concerned about women’s health” (Weitz & Estes, 2001). Economic inequality is a reflection of unequal investments into the general and professional education. Education as a factor of social differentiation was considered by many representatives of the social theory. Inconsistent functions of education consist in the transmission of the status from generation to generation and at the same time in its change; connection of the education system with fight of various status groups for mastering wealth, power and prestige via mechanisms of support and creation of obstacles for “aliens”.

The cumulative disadvantage in the professional sphere is shown not only on the different levels of payment, but also in the contents and working conditions. Hereby, those people who are occupied with physical work are replaceable, they are less free to use working hours, their workplaces are less reliable, and they have less chances of career advancement. Structural changes in the American labor market are also most adverse for representatives of working class. The reason is that they are characterized by growth of number of workplaces for incomplete working week as well as temporary, low-paid, and corresponding reduction of a share of “good” workplaces. The average class is also characterized by more substantial, and is higher paid work, and the growing sector of services and productions of intellectual products provides it stable employment.

2. How is health and health seeking behavior a gender experience in later life? How does ethnicity or social class affect this experience?

Though the illness is a tragic experience, it would be wrong to consider it as evil. Often, it is a consequence of a person’s internal separation from their self and separation from surrounding people. Usually, people live too superficially. The life, especially life in the large cities, is immensely fussy, and it is almost always filled with something minor. People do not give themselves time to stop, reflect, and stay alone for some period of time. Very often, illness is felt like a real burden, and men are too concerned about this fact. They feel a burden because they are not able to remain inactive.

In fact, the illness affects all people, regardless the gender. It destroys relationship and influences working capacity and daily occupations. Men perceive an illness more seriously than woman and more often have diseases because of nerves. Apparently, this occurs even in spite of the fact that “Hegemonic masculinity in Western society refers to the traditional, patriarchal view of men and men’s behavior as the most influential and culturally accepted notion of ‘manliness’” (Smith, Braunack-Mayer, Wittert, &Warin, 2007). It is known that women can easily treat simple diseases, but men, on the contrary, suffer from a banal cold. “Women generally have higher life expectancy than men, but the picture is not simple. For reasons that are not entirely agreed upon, women in developed countries have higher life expectancy at birth, and at older ages, than do men” (World Health Organization, 2003). Thus, women possess the best immunity and resistance to infections; however, they are defenseless in case of inflammations (they die from sepsis almost twice more often than men). Men can stoically sustain wounds, but a fight against common cold is a serious and dangerous test for their organism.

Each nation, culture, and religion has its own attitude towards illnesses. If in one nation it is accepted to perceive a sudden serious illness with deadly fear, pain, anger, and despair, in other culture, it is perceived as a trial which helps a person better understand themselves and live further. When talking about social class affect, it is logical that people who are more knowledgeable sustain diseases easier because they know how they should be treated and usually do not have problems getting necessary medicine.

3. How is caregiving a gender experience? How is this experience affected by societal notions of masculinity and femininity?

Caregiving is the best shown in motherhood and paternity because there is nothing more important than care of own child.

Research has demonstrated that women predominate as caregivers; that they are more likely to engage in personal care than are men; perform a wider range of tasks and spend more time in providing care than do men; and are often the preferred caregivers by receivers. (Calasanti & Bowen, 2005).

Within centuries, the main life goal of men and women consisted in the creation of a family and a birth of children. The idea was supported not only by religion but also by culture and society. In such a way, certain rules and restrictions developed and assigned a role of a wife and mother to the woman. Moreover, many successful and independent women perceive motherhood as confirmation of a personal and public solvency, and this fact “warms up” passionate need to have a child. However, motherhood assumes responsibility. For some women, motherhood is the only area in which they can demonstrate their absolute competence. Many of them are sincerely convinced that only mother knows and feels what is necessary for her child. However, father also gives warmth and love to the child, but it is unreasonable to consider that he will behave in the same way as mother does just because he is a man.

Nowadays, it is extraordinary difficult for modern fathers to perform their major role, namely the embodiment of family authority. Gradually moving from hierarchical model of the organization of society to horizontal, it becomes evident that the second one led to inevitable confusion of roles and loss of reference points in a family. Today no one submits to anyone, and distinctions between generations are blurred. Formerly, a father was a powerful figure not only in a family but also in society. He was surrounded by the same aura of power and protection as a king. However, now men do not have this support.

It is obvious that family roles became more flexible. Women engage in work not less than men. However, this is not the only reason why their husbands became more active in taking care of children. Many modern fathers not only want to continue their work but also to be closer to children and establish with them confidential and emotional relations. Furthermore, some people consider that children become closer to their parents due to information technologies since they communicate by e-mail, write SMS and call by the mobile phone. Channels of communication as bridges connect children and parents, strengthening their relations.

Men and women should have different goals in a family because they possess different instruments of love. “Social change brings an additional consequence as well: generational differences values, attitudes, and life experiences are most pronounced during periods of substantial social change” (Carr, 2004). It is necessary to understand that in society man and woman could have identical roles, but in a family they are various.

4. Is grand parenting a gender experience? How do race and class affect this experience? How can the role of grandparent effect of quality of life in later years?

It is difficult to define how exactly men and women experience their grand parenting. Therefore, it is reasonable to analyze different versions. In fact, very often, women become grandmothers when they are in their mid-forties. However, there is one serious problem because in order to take care about children, they have to finish their career. If a woman perceives the new family role of “grandmother” as a signal of old age, it could trigger internal crisis. Men usually perceive grand parenting as a pleasure since they put grandchildren in a position of their children and try to compensate for that lack of concern that they have shown to them. However, “The lack of attention paid to grandfathers is equally indicative of a failure to consider the relationships between masculinity, men and later life” (Mann, 2007).

It is a serious reason to rethink vital values that often makes a person need changes that both man and woman should conduct without fear. Therefore, during this period, grandparents are often open to changes, if they are able to find positive sides in their new family role. In this case, the birth of grandchildren does not become the reason of the internal conflicts, but it opens the possibility of new rapprochement or emergence of new significant interests.

When talking about nationalities and races, in each society people go through their grand parenting in different ways. For example, in Russia or Ukraine, people most often devote the old age to grandchildren and children, but in America, elderly people usually find new reference points and are not afraid of their old age. Hereby, for them, their age is a possibility to engage in a favorite hobby, raise grandchildren or improve themselves. It is believed that the old age is the culmination of human development because a person has lived the whole life, possesses a huge and unique knowledge, and their wisdom helps the younger generation.

In spite of the fact that grandmothers and grandfathers variously perceive their grand parenting, responsibility for education of children lies on parents, and grandparents play only supporting but very important role.

The child welfare system is responsible for identifying long-term caregivers for children whose biological parents are unable or unwilling to care for them. Although grandparents are increasingly identified as custodians for their grandchildren, little is known about how grandparents are assessed by state actors. (Reich, 2007)

5. How do family related choices such marriage, divorce, number of children (or remaining childless), career choices affect quality of later life? How does this differ for men and women?

Family is the cradle of one’s personality. From the moment of birth, each person inherits family history.

Perhaps, too, life event changes are important to consider when exploring gender role attitudes. Marital status, having children, employment outside of the home, and increases in income and education among women may indeed mediate change in gender role attitudes over the life cycle. (Lynott & McCandless, 2000)

All family-related choices influence quality of one’s further life since people become happier or more unfortunate, freer or busier. In fact, everything depends on one’s choice. People hear the word “choice” many times and in different combinations. The choice consists in those moments of life when it becomes clear that a person is on the threshold of a new life.

Marriage bases on human relations, their attitude to each other, care and ability to express an interest for the sake of other personality. “Married individuals report better self-assessed health, have lower rates of long-term illness, are less depressed, and live longer that their unmarried counterparts” (Williams & Umberson, 2004). Therefore, people experience a great emotional influence of marriage. When a man makes a decision to divorce a woman, he seldom does it under the influence of emotions. More often, this decision is considered. However, some people think that divorce makes women happier than man. Moreover, this occurs even in spite of the fact that sometimes divorce leads to deterioration of woman’s finances. In addition, women marry later, choose to build a career and often earn more that man. Furthermore, usually, women have more friends than men, who can support them.

A couple experiences a serious trial during the first year after the child’s birth. Parents usually become less satisfied with their marriage. During this period, men and women experience extraordinary changes in their relations. Their roles change cardinally because earlier they were lovers and now they became young parents. In fact, this transformation demands a lot of time. Parenthood shows people an absolutely new side of each other. Thus, people should get acquainted with their partners even if they were together for ten years.

Though women more often seek to work and men gradually get used to family duties, even now men and women perceive the importance of career and family life in a different way. Men are usually exposed to emotional problems when their family gets in the way of their work, but women become terribly upset when they do not have time for their family.