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Consensus Study Report


The aging of the population of the United States is occurring at a time of major economic and social changes. These economic changes include consideration of increases in the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare and possible changes in benefit levels. Furthermore, changes in the social context in which older individuals and families function may well affect the nature of key social relationships and institutions that define the environment for older persons. Sociology offers a knowledge base, a number of useful analytic approaches and tools, and unique theoretical perspectives that can facilitate understanding of these demographic, economic, and social changes and, to the extent possible, their causes, consequences and implications.

New Directions in the Sociology of Aging evaluates the recent contributions of social demography, social epidemiology and sociology to the study of aging and identifies promising new research directions in these sub-fields. Included in this study are nine papers prepared by experts in sociology, demography, social genomics, public health, and other fields, that highlight the broad array of tools and perspectives that can provide the basis for further advancing the understanding of aging processes in ways that can inform policy. This report discusses the role of sociology in what is a wide-ranging and diverse field of study; a proposed three-dimensional conceptual model for studying social processes in aging over the life cycle; a review of existing databases, data needs and opportunities, primarily in the area of measurement of interhousehold and intergenerational transmission of resources, biomarkers and biosocial interactions; and a summary of roadblocks and bridges to transdisciplinary research that will affect the future directions of the field of sociology of aging.


Suggested Citation

National Research Council. 2013. New Directions in the Sociology of Aging. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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Publication Info

318 pages |  6 x 9 | 

  • Paperback:  978-0-309-29297-9
  • Ebook:  978-0-309-29300-6
Chapters skim
Front Matter i-xvi
Summary 3-8
1 Introduction and Approach 9-13
2 A Conceptual Model of Aging for the Next Generation of Research 14-30
3 Data Needs and Opportunities 31-55
4 Roadblocks and Bridges to Transdisciplinary Research 56-66
References 67-75
Appendix: Biographical Sketches of Panel Members 76-80
5 Introduction and Overview--Linda J. Waite 83-94
6 The New Realities of Aging: Social and Economic Contexts--Jacqueline L. Angel and Richard A. Settersten, Jr. 95-119
7 Research Opportunities in the Demography of Aging--Melissa Hardy and Vegard Skirbekk 120-150
8 Networks, Neighborhoods, and Institutions: An Integrated "Activity Space" Approach for Research on Aging--Kathleen A. Cagney, Christopher R. Browning, Aubrey L. Jackson, and Brian Soller 151-174
9 Constrained Choices: The Shifting Institutional Contexts of Aging and the Life Course--Phyllis Moen 175-216
10 Opportunities and Challenges in the Study of Biosocial Dynamics in Healthy Aging--Tara L. Gruenewald 217-242
11 The Loyal Opposition: A Commentary on "Opportunities and Challenges in the Study of Biosocial Dynamics in Healthy Aging"--Maxine Weinstein, Dana A. Glei, and Noreen Goldman 243-254
12 Social Genomics and the Life Course: Opportunities and Challenges for Multilevel Population Research--Michael J. Shanahan 255-276
13 The Challenge of Social Genomics: A Commentary on "Social Genomics and the Life Course: Opportunities and Challenges for Multilevel Population Research"--Jason Schnittker 277-283
14 Interventions to Promote Health and Prevent Disease: Perspectives on Clinical Trials Past, Present, and Future--S. Leonard Syme and Abby C. King 284-300
Committee on Population 301-302

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