Late-life death and dying in 21st-century america
The social and medical changes of the twentieth century have been remarkable, and expectations for such change in the twenty-first century seem almost without bounds. Medical technology assists physicians to identify ways in which life can be extended. This chapter examines how social factors and institutions affect and contextualize death. All societies must manage death, but cultural responses differ substantially both across and within societies. Age, a critical social factor, influences perceptions about death, as do religiosity and education. Death is the end of life and biological functioning. Several theories now offer perspectives for understanding and studying death and dying. Changing mortality rates and causes of death were driving forces that increased the use of institutions as places of death. Extensive empirical evidence suggests that care for the terminally ill has high human and resource costs. The heterogeneity of the American population-especially in late life-results in wide variability of beliefs and attitudes toward death and dying. Age, race/ethnicity, SES, and gender all influence how people will cope with short-term and long-term consequences of death and dying. © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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