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On the relationship between dominant sociological paradigms in the field of aging and welfare programs for the aged

International Sociological Association paper

Author: Guillemard, A. M.
Year: 1982
Type: Journal Article


The goal is to analyze the relationship between the social construction of the reality of old age as elaborated by the dominant theoretical perspectives of the sociology of aging in the 1960s, & the reality resulting from the welfare programs implemented for the aged during the same time period. The theoretical perspectives in the field of aging belong primarily to the structural functional trend, which was prevalent in the U.S. when the sociology of aging developed its conceptual framework. These perspectives are based on the three following assumptions: (1) a naturalistic conception of age; (2) an individualization of the aging process; & (3) an adult-oriented perspective on old age. It can be established that these last assumptions also underlie the welfare policy designed for the elderly in most of the industrialized countries. As a matter of fact, this policy first has dealt with old age as a category in itself, with its own specific needs, isolated from the previous life stages. Second, it has primarily focused on provision of services at individual levels, confining the solving of old age problems to an action upon individuals. It can be argued, through the examination of these relationships, that welfare policy for the aged has found a scientific legitimation in the sociology of aging. However, it is difficult to assess whether the dominant sociological approaches, through their own theoretical formulations of the old age problem, have channeled specific solutions for welfare policies, or whether, being unable to further the political demand, social research has only reinforced the terms in which this demand was formulated by the policymakers.

Further Details

Accession Number 17.4.03
Keywords North America, older, policy compliance

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