Dissertation Abstracts

Demographic Ageing from a Sociological Perspective: The Agency of the Elderly in Social, Economic and Political Aspects

Author: Onder Erol, Pelin , pelinondertr@yahoo.com
Department: Sociology
University: Ege University, Turkey
Supervisor: Göknur Ege
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: Turkish

Keywords: old age , ageing , agency , demographics of agei
Areas of Research: Population


This study deals with the aging process as experienced both individually at the micro-level and demographically at the macro-level. It employs quantitative and qualitative techniques to parallel the multi-level approach. The quantitative data was gathered through structured interviews conducted with a sample of 416 people aged 65 and over who were living in Izmir; the qualitative data was gathered through in-depth interviews conducted with 16 people chosen from the same research population. These data indicate that older people have a transformative capacity in society which is framed by the social structure’s resources and constraints, and that they therefore act as social agents. This argument is supported and explained by drawing upon Anthony Giddens’ Structuration Theory, which attempts to mediate between theories that highlight structure and theories that highlight the individual agents. Moreover, this study concludes that a set of parameters cause differences in the forms and levels of agency of old people in social, economic, and political fields. These parameters include their residential area, educational background, income, age, marital status, subjective health, gender, and living arrangements. In this respect, old people are viewed as a very heterogeneous group. This study criticizes the perspective that puts high value on economic productivity as defined by modern capitalist society. In doing so, it argues that old people cannot be portrayed as deficient and insufficient, as is occasionally done in academic literature and frequently done in everyday discourse. Instead, old people maintain their agency in many areas, but at different levels according to the various parameters studied. Noting that in the near future the absolute and relative numbers of old people in the population of Turkey will increase dramatically, this study emphasizes the agency of the elderly. Given this context, this dissertation concludes with suggestions about old age in Turkey.

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