Aging and Family Structure

Ageism is a common social prejudice that people face irrespective of social background. The world values youth more than old age, and older adults are likely to be negatively stereotyped. America is known for its obsession with young people. The American media adore youth and beauty, and Americans learn that “new things” are more valued from an early age. Americans fixate on looking younger than their age, with plastic surgery at an all-time high for both men and women, and concern is more about physical appearance and vanity. In Hollywood, the leading roles are typically occupied by young women and strong, virile, and fit men. The fashion magazine cover only features young, beautiful, and slender women. The men’s magazines are the same but primarily focus on models, famous athletes, and actors. This sends a strong message concerning the American society’s perspectives and attitudes toward aging.

Even though America has higher aging rates, there is still a prejudice against the older population and widespread fear of aging. Despite the attention on the young population and beauty having conventionally been focused more on women compared to men, there is increasingly a growing concern even among men concerning aging. Older people used to be greatly admired for their wisdom and experience. However, the shifts in the economic, social, and political scenes seem to be shifting the perceptions about aging, lowering the position and status of older adults in society. With the increasing concern about staying young and rising sense of individualism, the older Americans have had to cope with a mounting level of marginalization, disrespect, and disregard. The mass media, which has become a crucial part of American society, is escalating this trend of devaluing and marginalization the aging population, influencing people’s perceptions, beliefs, and values. Behavioral and social science researchers have established that the portrayal of the older generation is mainly stereotypical and negative (Berger, 2017). The most prevalent perceptions concerning the elderly population are that they are unskilled and of low status. The theme is propagated throughout the mass media representations. Older Americans are often portrayed as unattractive, weak, senile, frail, financially distressed, feeble, and not contributing immensely to society like the youthful population (Cuddy, Norton, & Fiske, 2016). Compared to the Chinese culture, the attitude towards the older adults in US and China takes an entirely different angle.

In Chinese society, older adults are still viewed as an essential source of wisdom and spirituality. They are valued and respected to the point that questioning their authority is regarded as offensive. This is so despite the rapid shifts in the demographic of China, including the expansion of Chinese cities and the focus on economic prosperity, which is straining the established values concerning aging, family structure, and caregiving. Such a shift in society’s demographics makes it challenging for young adults to care for their parents effectively. Nonadherence to filial behaviors is rising and is a concern to the Chinese government and the people as it gives rise to elderly abuse and injustices (Dong, 2016). In line with the Chinese culture of valuing older people, the Chinese government has taken measures to protect the aging population. The National People’s Congress passed the Filial Piety Law in July 2013 to curb elderly abuse. The law directs that adult children must offer culturally and socially expected support to elderly parents aged 60 and above. The support as required by the law includes sending greetings and regular visits to cater for the spiritual needs of aging members of the society (Dong, 2016). Such laws show how the Chinese community is concerned about older people, unlike in the American culture.


Adopting a sociological perspective to explain the influence of gender in caring for the elderly, we can say that both men and women are equally inclined to care for the elderly. The drivers toward caring for the aged include compassion, love and affection, and a sense of duty to care for the aging parents and relatives.

However, these drivers vary from men to women. Men view caring for the elderly as a duty they have to accomplish, while women are driven by emotions alongside the traditional feminine responsibility to care for the aging parent. A study has shown that men being more pragmatic, task-driven, and less emotion-focused are likely to use enforcement approaches upon older people receiving the care to obey the caregiving tasks, prioritizing the need to accomplish tasks instead of reacting to emotions. On the other hand, women are reluctant to impose any compliance as it contradicts the nurturing feminine role (Zygouri et al., 2021). Hence, Women spouses and daughters are likely to strive to avoid practices that could diminish the care receiver’s self-control when caring for the elderly. The US should implement Social Services Act for the elderly, a policy ensuring that the elderly population receives some financial support from the federal and local governments to support their economic and health needs and social wellbeing. 


Berger, R. (2017). Aging in America: Ageism and General Attitudes toward Growing Old and the Elderly. Open Journal of Social Sciences5, 183-198. doi: 10.4236/jss.2017.58015.

Cuddy, A. J., Norton, M. I., & Fiske, S. T. (2016). Corrigendum to “This old stereotype: The pervasiveness and persistence of the elderly stereotype”.

Dong, X. (2016). Elder rights in China: care for your parents or suffer public shaming and desecrate your credit scores. JAMA internal medicine176(10), 1429-1430.

Zygouri, I., Cowdell, F., Ploumis, A., Gouva, M., & Mantzoukas, S. (2021). Gendered experiences of providing informal care for older people: A systematic review and thematic synthesis. BMC health services research21(1), 1-15.