Children and the elderly appear to be most at risk of health problems and disabling conditions. The Barnardos Survey found that 80% of adults believe that 50% of crime is commited by young people, when in reality it is only 12%. For the elderly, inequality is clear in that 1 in 7 pensioners in the UK are living in poverty. There are a range of sociological theories that have different views and explanations on age inequality.

Functionalists view age inequality in positive terms, using concepts of consensus and social agreements to account for the lower status of old in our society. Henry referred to the idea of 'disengagement', meaning that people lose social ties to those around them because they expect death, and their abilities to engage with others deteriorates. Before disengagement, the elderly peple would pass on their social roles to younger people in their preparation for their loss of faculties and forthcoming death. Eisenstadt argued that different generational groups allowed individuals to learn social roles as the grow older and that this contributes to consensus and cohesion. It is the role of the old to socialise the youth to prepare them for their own futures. However, Functionalism can be criticised for being too positive. It assumes that everybody shares the same experience of growing old and overlooks issues of class, gender and ethnicity. How can we prove the concept of disengagement when not everyone has a social role in society?

Marxist thinkers state that Capitalist groups control the wealth and power in society. They oppress and exploit the labours of workers. Althusser was critical of the welfare payments to the young and the old. He claimed that…


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