Age and aging are social constructions, concepts that are defined by societies and social behavior. Sociologists study what it means to be old in a society, the consequences of aging, and social responses to aging. How elders are treated or mistreated, what opportunities they have, and what challenges they face result from the attitudes, behaviors, institutions, and policies of the wider society. The large and growing populations of elderly people in the United States and other industrialized nations, coupled with the challenges intrinsic to old age, present challenges for these societies. Social policies, such as Social Security for older Americans, are one way that societies respond to aging and to changing demographic compositions.

At A Glance