Explain why you think these differences exist. Also, explain how different perspectives on aging might impact social work practice.

Sociological Aspects of Later Adulthood

Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman (2016) refer to adults in later adulthood as “a population at risk” (p. 717). Why are individuals in later adulthood a vulnerable population? What role might social work play in addressing the needs of this population?

This week, you consider factors that impact the vulnerability of individuals in later adulthood, including differing cultural perspectives of older individuals and consider ways to increase support for this population in your local community.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Analyze sociocultural differences in perspectives on aging
  • Apply perspectives on aging to social work practice
  • Evaluate local community resources for older individuals

Photo Credit: vm / E+ / Getty Images

Learning Resources

Zastrow, C. H., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2016). Understanding human behavior and the social environment (10th ed.). Boston, MA:  Cengage Learning.
Chapter 16, “Sociological Aspects of Later Adulthood”

Use the link below to access the MSW home page, which provides resources for your social work program.
MSW home page

Tucker-Seeley, R. D., Li, Y., Sorensen, G., & Subramanian, S. V. (2011). Lifecourse socioeconomic circumstances and multimorbidity among older adults. BMC Public Health, 11(4), 313–321.

Discussion: Sociocultural Differences in Perspectives on Aging

Western cultures think of time in linear terms while other cultures perceive the passage of time in cyclical terms (Helman, 2005). Helman states, “The clock, the watch and the calendar are among the main cultural symbols of Western industrial society” (para. 3). How might a culture’s perception of time influence views of individuals in later adulthood? What other cultural differences might impact a people’s view of aging? This week, you explore different cultures’ perspectives on aging and consider how these differences might impact social work.

To prepare for this Discussion, research two cultures different from your own and compare their perspectives on aging to that of your own culture.

Post a Discussion that compares your culture’s perspective on aging to the perspectives of the two cultures you researched. Explain why you think these differences exist. Also, explain how different perspectives on aging might impact social work practice.

Read a selection of your colleagues’ posts.

Respond to at least two colleagues who addressed cultures that are different from the ones you addressed. Share an insight from reading your colleagues’ postings. Describe how you might incorporate the cultural perspectives on aging described by your colleagues into your own social work practice.

Be sure to support your responses with specific references to the resources. If you are using additional articles, be sure to provide full APA-formatted citations for your references.

Assignment: Community Resources for Older Individuals

Volunteers and political officials in local communities often campaign to improve conditions and provide services to increase the well-being of individuals and families living in those communities. If you are the parent of young children, you might focus on improving the local school or creating safe places where children can play. If you are an individual in later adulthood or a caregiver for an individual in later adulthood, what community resources might be important to you? For this week’s Assignment, you evaluate the resources that your local community provides for its older members.

To prepare for this Assignment, research the resources available in your local community to support the issues and concerns of the older population. Note any gaps in these services and consider what improvements might be made to existing services as well as what services should be added.

Submit a 2- to 4-page paper that includes the following:

  • A description of the services in your local community that support individuals in later adulthood
  • An evaluation of the effectiveness of the services you identified
  • A description of service gaps you identified
  • An explanation of how to improve existing services
  • A description of services that should be added, and why

Colleague Responses

michelle washington

My Culture’s Perspective on Aging

Western U.S cultures are more focused on youthfulness. Taking responsibility for aging adults is less common (“How the elderly is treated around the world,” 2013). Ageism exist in every culture but in my opinion there is a more commonality of ageism among Western Culture. Ageism is the stereotyping and mistreatment of older individuals. The differences in my opinion exist because of the lack thereof about the importance of family bonds and respect for the elderly. In Western culture is normal for families to not talk or see each other often. In many cultures and other countries that is just unacceptable. The emphasis on family units are practiced even from a government point of view.

Cultures treatment of aging adults

In Chinese, Japanese and Korean cultures older people are among the most highly respected citizens. In China they have created a law titled “Elderly Rights Law”.  This law ensures that elderly people are visited by their children often if they have them. The law requires children to abandon their elderly parents no matter how far apart the may live(“How the elderly are treated around the world,” 2013). If the law isn’t followed there may even be a possible consequence such as a fine or possibly jail time (“How the elderly is treated around the world,” 2013). Historically China for example has been a family-oriented country where families are tight knit and the elderly are highly honored and respected (“How the elderly are treated around the world,” 2013). Japan like China are historically known for the respect and honor they show older people. In Korea reaching certain age are considered pristine and is openly celebrated (“How the elderly is treated around the world,” 2013). In Japanese traditions just as in Chinese culture the general assumption is when individuals began to age parent and children’s roles will begin to change (“How the elderly are treated around the world,” 2013). The expectation is for the children to take care of his or her parent which in these cultures is an honorable (“How the elderly is treated around the world,” 2013). Like Chinese and Japanese cultures Korean culture had the same values and traditions regarding the elderly.

Why do differences exist and impact on social work?

In terms of differences there may be multiple reasons why and how aging is viewed and carried out. The economy is one issue that comes to mind. Homelessness is another one. Some cultures strive on making sure their citizens have the necessary resources to survive. In my opinion in western cultures there is more lack of respect for the aging. Aging is viewed as a burden not a blessing. Aging is looked at an inconvenience and role reversal between parents and children are in existence as frequently. However, sometimes children are not in the position to take care of aging individuals. They might be struggling just to take care of themselves or others. In my opinion value and traditions also play a role in how cultures treat aging adults. In some cultures, expectations to take care of family starts at birth and through some individuals lives they see multiple generations taking care and caring about the well-being of those who are aging.  Different perspectives are good when you are working to help someone become more successful but there can also be challenges associated with different perspectives. Different perspectives might make some issues harder to resolve.

Kate Fullmer RE: Discussion – 

I identify as an American and citizen of the United States. I feel that American society fears the aging process. This is proven by individuals in the United States getting cosmetic surgery such as face lifts, breast augmentation, and liposuction. Youth is placed on a pedestal in American Society, and it seems that a great deal of people are attempting to stay forever young through such cosmetic surgeries and many other available options to slow the aging process. Americans tend to fear the deterioration of their looks and their bodies. (www.hcrhomehealth.com) With the fear of aging in America, comes the thought process of no longer being useful. As a result of these thoughts that come from the stereotypes and stigma of aging, individuals may give up on taking care of themselves and staying healthy and active. (www.hcrhomehealth.com)

In researching the Japanese culture and the aging perspective, it seems to differ from that of American culture. In Japan, old age is viewed as a “rebirth, ” after a very busy time of raising children and working. This time period of life is socially viewed to be very valuable. (www.nextavenue.org). In researching the African-American culture, aging is embraced and viewed as a reward. In African-American culture, death is viewed as natural which decreases the cultural fear regarding aging. (https://journals.sagepub.com). I feel these differences in views exist due to the society a person is a part of as well as their culture and the manner in which an individual is raised. These factors all play a role in how a person views the aging process.

How different perspectives on aging might impact social work practice: Depending on the individual’s culture, the social worker may think differently regarding which resources and services to provide, The individual will need to be assessed and cultural competence will need to be practiced to enable the social worker to reduce barriers.


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