Aging and Health

SOCIOL 263

The purpose of this course is to examine the inescapable relationship between growing older and having health problems. Our stereotypes of older adults include several components related to health, and most people in American society look forward to late life with dread because they fear that their health problems will overwhelm them.  We will begin the course with a review of the epidemiology of aging and an overall view of health in late life.

Next, our discussion will turn to the biology of aging, and we will look at how the body does and does not change as we age.  Moving more into the policy arena, we will then examine Medicare and Medicaid as well as health care economics and health services for older adults.

Our third section will focus on social issues and how they relate to aging and health.  Here we will cover issues of long-term care on a societal basis, on social support from family and paid providers, and on the psychosocial consequences of poor health in late life.  Then we will concentrate on late-life illnesses, with a specific look at Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, depression, and Parkinson’s disease.

Finally, we will examine issues surrounding the end of life as it relates to old age.  Do we really need living wills and advance directives?  Can’t family members make those decisions for older people?  Who should be kept alive by the remarkable technology of modern medicine? And finally we face the issue that old people (and all people) do and should die. Are we giving people false hope in terms of what modern medicine can do for them?  Do people really want to live forever, especially older adults?

Fortunately, the majority of people age 65 and over are relatively healthy and live independent lives.  But those who have multiple chronic conditions, terminal conditions, or life-altering conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease bring challenges to our society in terms of health care, living arrangements, policy, and cost.  Given that the fastest growing group in our country is that comprised of 85+ year olds, we need to learn to deal with an aging population.  Hopefully, this course will help elucidate some of the issues for you.

Service-Learning Component:

This class includes a service learning component which is done with the help of LEAPS (Learning through Experience, Action, Partnership, and Service). Service learning gives you the opportunity to apply what you learn in class to real life. Students will be assigned a community partner placement at a local site which serves older adults and which has some connection to health care. 

The service learning requirements are as follows:

1. Students must spend 2 hours a week for 10 weeks (for a semester’s total of 20 hours) doing service work at the placement you receive. 

2. Students will keep a weekly service learning journal reflecting on learning, raising questions about their experiences, or discussing their emotional reactions to issues at their placement. 

3. There will be 4 (four) in-class reflection sessions that provide small-group opportunities to discuss service learning experiences and to receive feedback about service work. 

NOTE: SERVICE LEARNING PARTICIPATION IS REQUIRED OF EVERYONE AND WILL COUNT FOR 20% OF YOUR GRADE. YOU MUST COMPLETE 20 HOURS, WRITE 10 1-page JOURNAL ENTRIES, AND ATTEND 4 REFLECTION SESSIONS. 

Read more about the instructor here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curriculum Codes: 

EI, SS, W