Aging, Society, and the Life Course, Sixth Edition

Aging, Society, and the Life Course, Sixth Edition

Suzanne R. Kunkel, PhD, Richard Settersten, Jr., PhD


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Newly revised and updated, this classic text examines the impact of social forces on the aging process. It considers aging from personal, family, community, societal, and global perspectives. The sixth edition reflects significant changes in the field of social gerontology. It delves deeply into the life course paradigm to demonstrate how aging experiences are shaped by individuals’; pasts and by a sweeping range of social factors. It uses a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens to underscore how social and economic advantages and disadvantages can accumulate with aging. Chapters reflect the richness and complexity of family life, work and retirement, health, and community engagement. The book addresses landmark changes in laws and policies and highlights innovative developments to enhance the independence of elders. It emphasizes what an aging society means for people of all ages and generations, and the causes and consequences of pervasive ageism. Provocative essays explore contemporary ethical, legal, and social issues.

Especially written for courses in social gerontology and sociology of aging, the book is also valuable for curricula in social work, allied health, and the ever-growing range of disciplines and professions that are affected by individual and population aging. The sixth edition offers several new features to enhance the teaching and learning experiences, including Stop and Think boxes to foster curiosity, critical thinking, and personal connections to the ideas; bullet-point summaries to reinforce chapter takeaways; and an updated and expanded Instructor’s Manual. Purchase includes digital access for use on most mobile devices or computers.

New to the Sixth Edition:

  • Draws attention to the influence of the life course on aging
  • Discusses how aging impacts people of all ages and generations
  • Explores what the changing behaviors and attitudes of younger cohorts might mean for the future of aging
  • Leverages a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens to understand variability and inequality in aging
  • Provides updated knowledge about family life, work and retirement, health, community engagement, and ageism
  • Highlights landmark changes in laws and policies that affect aging, such as evolving health care policies and laws related to intergenerational obligations
  • Describes innovative models and interventions to enhance the independence and integration of elders in their communities
  • Incorporates new content and provocative essays on contemporary ethical, legal, and social issues

Key Features:

  • Presents information in straightforward, engaging prose that seamlessly integrates bodies of evidence
  • Highlights how aging is often a shared experience resulting from interactions with a complex set of social forces
  • Demonstrates how the aging of individuals and entire generations occurs within layers of social context
  • Probes causes of variability and inequality in aging across social categories
  • Reveals the presence and consequences of ageism for individuals and societies
  • Looks in-depth at aging in America with an eye to a global context
  • Introduces and applies contemporary theories of aging to specific topics to demonstrate their utility for aging science and practice


Suzanne R. Kunkel, PhD:

Suzanne Kunkel, PhD, is University Distinguished Professor of Gerontology and Executive Director of the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University. Her research is broadly focused on the social determinants of health, including the system of programs and services designed to support older adults in their goals to remain healthy, active, and engaged in their communities for as long as they choose. She has been supported by more than $7.5 million in external research funding to assess the implementation and effectiveness of these programs, including innovations such as consumer self-direction and dementia-friendly communities, and the role of cross-sectoral organizational partnerships in enhancing population health. Dr. Kunkel has published widely on the results of these projects, and on gerontology education. With Frank Whittington and Kate de Medeiros, she authored the second edition of Global Aging: Comparative Perspectives on Aging and the Life Course, a Springer textbook released in 2020. Kunkel is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE); she has served as President of AGHE, and Treasurer of GSA. She is the recipient of the Clark Tibbitts Award for contributions to the advancement of gerontology as a field of study.


Richard A. Settersten, Jr., PhD, is University Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs at Oregon State University. He served as Head of the School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences and is the founding director of the Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families. He has played leadership roles in the American Sociological Association and the Gerontological Society of America and has received numerous awards for his interdisciplinary research, teaching, and service. A graduate of Northwestern University, Settersten's training and expertise in aging and the life course extends across multiple life phases and disciplines. He is author or editor of many scientific articles and books, including Living on the Edge, Precarity and Ageing, Long-Term Outcomes of Military Service, Handbook of Theories of Aging, Not Quite Adults, Handbook of Sociology of Aging, and On the Frontier of Adulthood, as well as issues of Advances in Life Course Research, Research on Aging, Research in Human Development, and Public Policy and Aging Report. His research has been supported by divisions of the National Institutes of Health, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.