Age-Grading and Aging

Society has an alternative method of classifying people by age. The distinctions are based on a person’s life situation, especially the place held in society, rather than on number of years since birth. Sociologists and anthropologists sometimes refer to this as an age-grading approach. It has been the most important basis of age distinction in many societies, and continues as a supplementary approach in industrialized nations today.

A simple age-grading approach divides the population into the young, the grown up, and the aged.

Age-grading can be as powerful as chronological age in shaping a person’s life. The rules of behavior are often quite different for the various grades. In some societies children are indulged. They can enjoy themselves with a minimum of discipline. But when they become regarded as adolescents or adults, they are expected to be serious and disciplined.

Age-grading is important as a way of distributing rights and responsibilities. This means that moving from adulthood to old age can have different implications, thus giving credence to the concept of age-grading. For example: becoming an elder is often an improvement in status for women in age-graded societies. She can now enjoy more prestige and power than ever before and can delegate to younger people the chores she most dislikes.

I wish to re-emphasize the following: chronological age classification is generally the “official” technique used to sort us out. Age-grading, however, still tends to play a strong part in our lives.

The “old timer” may be an experienced worker who is no older chronologically than the newcomer to the job situation. We appear to need people in both junior and senior status in many situations, even if the chronological age difference is trivial, non-existent, or even reversed.

Quotable Quote: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Ghandi
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