People in hunting and gathering societies are not able to accumulate a food surplus and must spend much of their time seeking ood. They do not have permanent housing that protects them from the environment. In such societies. younger people may be viewed as a valuable asset in hunting and gathering food, whereas older people may be viewed as a liability because they typically move more slowly. are less agile. and may be perceived as being less productive. Although more people reach older ages in horticultural. pastoral. and agrarian societies. life is still very hard for most people. It is possible to accumulate a surplus. so older individuals. particularly men. are often the most privileged in a society because they have the most wealth. power. and prestige. n agrarian societies. farming makes it possible for more people to live to adulthood and to more-advanced years. In these societies. he proportion of older people living with other family members is extremely high. with few elderly living alone.
In recent years. a growing number of people are reaching age 60 and above in some middle- and lower income nations. Consider hat India, for example. has about a billion people in its population. If only 5 percent of the population reaches age 60 or above. here will still be a significant increase in the number of older people in that country, Because so much of the world’s population resides in India and other low-income nations. the proportion of older people in these countries will increase dramatically during the twenty-first century.
Industrial and Postindustrial Societies
In industrial societies. living standards improve and advances in medicine contribute to greater longevity for more people. lthough it is often believed that less industrialized countries countries accord greater honor. prestige. and respect to older people. some studies have found that the stereotypical belief that people in such nations will be taken care of by their relatives. particularly daughters and sons. is not necessarily true today (Martin and Kinsella, 1994). In postindustrial societies. information technologies are extremely important. and a large proportion of the working population is employed in service-sector occupations in the fields of education and health care. both of which may benefit older people. Some more affluent older people may move away from family and friends upon retirement in pursuit of recreational facilities or a better climate (such as the popular move from the no~the eastern United States to the southern “sunbelt” states). Others may relocate to be closer to children other relatives. The shift from a society that was primarily young to a society that is older will bring about major changes in societal patterns and in the needs of the population. Issues that must be addressed include the health care system, the Social security system, transportation. housing. and recreation.