Golden Years?: Social Inequality in Later Life (American Sociological Association's Rose Series) (Paperback)
Carr connects research in sociology, psychology, epidemiology, gerontology, and other fields to explore the well-being of older adults. On many indicators of physical health, such as propensity for heart disease or cancer, black seniors fare worse than whites due to lifetimes of exposure to stressors such as economic hardships and racial discrimination and diminished access to health care. In terms of mental health, Carr finds that older women are at higher risk of depression and anxiety than men, yet older men are especially vulnerable to suicide, a result of complex factors including the rigid masculinity expectations placed on this generation of men. Carr finds that older adults’ physical and mental health are also closely associated with their social networks and the neighborhoods in which they live. Even though strong relationships with spouses, families, and friends can moderate some of the health declines associated with aging, women—and especially women of color—are more likely than men to live alone and often cannot afford home health care services, a combination that can be isolating and even fatal. Finally, social inequalities affect the process of dying itself, with white and affluent seniors in a better position to convey their end-of-life preferences and use hospice or palliative care than their disadvantaged peers.
Carr cautions that rising economic inequality, the lingering impact of the Great Recession, and escalating rates of obesity and opioid addiction, among other factors, may contribute to even greater disparities between the haves and the have-nots in future cohorts of older adults. She concludes that policies, such as income supplements for the poorest older adults, expanded paid family leave, and universal health care could ameliorate or even reverse some disparities.
A comprehensive analysis of the causes and consequences of later-life inequalities, Golden Years? demonstrates the importance of increased awareness, strong public initiatives, and creative community-based programs in ensuring that all Americans have an opportunity to age well.
About the Author
—PHYLLIS MOEN, director, Life Course Center and McKnight Endowed Presidential Chair in Sociology, University of Minnesota
—PAMELA HERD, professor, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University