Institution: College of the Canyons
Discipline: Sociology
Title: Aging
Instructor: Patricia Robinson

Sociology of Aging

Section #29414
Th 11:00-12:15, C 204

Instructor: Patricia Robinson, Ph.D.
Office: M 212
Phone: 661.362.3992
Office Hours: M 11-12, T 1-2:30, Th 1-2:30, and Fridays by Appointment
Campus email:

Course Goals:
The Sociology of Aging entails two primary goals. The first goal is to introduce students to the sociological study of social gerontology or, more specifically, aging. By using the “sociological perspective,” students will examine the cultural, social, and political structures that define the aging process, The worldwide variation between “sociological age” and “chronological age” is reviewed to illustrate how culturally prescribed attitudes determine the value of growing old. This course demonstrates how aging and its related consequences are determined by socially constructed meanings recognized and practiced by societal members. The inevitability and consequences of aging greatly influences social interaction among groups, institutions, and nations and results in conflicting relationships based on moral, ethical, and fiscal concerns.

The second goal is to engage students in active sociological research and analytical reflection through service learning. Service learning combines both theory and application as students work directly with a community partner to provide “service” to that organization. This type of experiential learning enables students to gain “real life” knowledge of a social condition and to understand it by linking classroom to community. Students will analyze the situation and discuss it by incorporating sociological concepts through the process of reflection. This semester, with the assistance of the Santa Clarita Valley Sr. Center, students will participate in community based research by collecting Life Histories of SCV seniors. This project will meet the requirements stipulated in an intergenerational service learning grant awarded to COC by the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), Generations Together/University of Pittsburgh, and the Corporation for National Service. Students will reflect upon their service learning experiences with their “senior buddy” by constructing a personalized poster board of that person’s life. Student poster boards will be placed on public display during the Annual SCV Age Wave Expo on May 3, 2003.

Course objectives:
In taking this course, students will be able to:

-Identify the historical, cultural, and demographic changes associated with the aging process, especially as they relate to trends in the United States.
– Contrast social attitudes of aging based on definitions of “sociological age” with those based on “chronological age.”
– List the kinds of medical concerns and social problems faced by the aged as a result of their declining health and diminished social status in American society.
– Describe the economic status of America’s aging population and to review the structural, institutional, and social factors that determine this social position.
– Review the theoretical explanations use to explain the aged aging process.

Required Texts:

Quadagno, Jill (2002). Aging and the Life Course: An Introduction to Social Gerontology (2nd edition). New York: McGraw Hill Publishers.

The instructor will distribute any additional materials in class.

Course Assignments:

To receive credit for this course, you are required to complete the following: two 2-3 page Self Reflective Written Assignments (e.g. journal style), two Midterms (multiple choice/essay), and a Life History Service Learning Project (10 pages) which includes a Self-Reflection Poster Board and a 15 minute presentation, and a Final Exam (take home, essay). Written Assignments are worth 25 points each, while the Life History Service-Learning Project (including poster board and oral presentation) totals 150 points. Each Midterm is worth 50 points as is the Final Exam. Finally, attendance/participation counts 50 additional points. (Total points possible: 400.) HITE credit is also available for students enrolled in Sociology 233.

Why engage in Service Learning?
How will I conduct a Life History?
What benefit will this project provide the SCV Sr. Center and community?

Service learning allows students to learn while “doing”; in other words, to participate in what john Dewy called “reflexive” thinking. Abstract terms come alive within a real world context.

Service learning experiences will be measured by providing 20 hours of community service to the Sr. Center (4 of which will involve the Life History interview). Besides the Life History interview, additional community service can be served by assisting at the Sr. Center, attending meetings of the A.L.I.V.E. Committee and helping members in their planning of the ill Annual SCV Age Wave Expo, and/or volunteering at the Age Wave Expo.

Service learning placements and interview contacts will be made through the COC Volunteer and Service Learning Center and the SCV ST. Center. Interviews will be conducted at the Sr. center located in Newhall. (If transportation to the Sr. Center is a problem, arrangements will be made to meet your senior contact at COC,)

Interview schedules will be addressed in class, while data will be recorded via audio tapes and field notes. (Audio tapes will be provided by the instructor. If you do not have access to a tape recorder, loan arrangements will be made with the Audio Visual Department to provide you with one.)

Reflection, the analytical process of linking course concepts to observations of and comments made by seniors about their life histories, will be expressed through a written essay, poster board, and oral presentation. Poster boards will be placed on display at the Age Wave Expo.

At the present time, a limited number of Life Histories chronicling the lives of SCV seniors exist. This project will provide the first on going attempt to collect senior oral histories (e.g. audio interviews), and to begin an archival database of these histories to be housed at the COC Learning Resources Center. These interviews will be available for public access.

Course Outline:


January 20 – Introduction to Course
January 27 – What is Service Learning?
February 3 – Defining Social Gerontology 1
February 10 – Conducting a Life History & Theories of Aging 2
February 17 – Demography of Aging
February 24 – Old Age and the Welfare State
March 3 – Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Aging 5


March 10 – Biological, Physiological, and Psychological 6, 7 – Perspectives on Aging
March 17 – Adult Development and the Life Course 8
March 24 – Social Support Systems 9
March 31 – Intimacy and Sexuality
April 7 – Work and Retirement 11


April 21 – Healthcare and Illness 12, 13


April 28 – Death and Dying 14


May 12 -vAging, Economics, Inequality, and Politics 15, 16, 17



May 20 – FINAL EXAM (11:00 A.M to 1:00 P.M.)