How does gender affect aging

Age and Aging

Gertrud M. Backes

To person

Dr. phil., born 1955; Professor of Social Gerontology at the University of Kassel, Department of Social Affairs, Arnold-Bode-Str. 10, D-34109 Kassel.
Email: [email protected]

Women live longer than men, seem to cope better with changes and at the same time - especially in old age - are more affected by health and social losses.


In the Anglophone sector, especially in Great Britain, the USA and Canada, but also in Scandinavian countries, topics related to "Gender and Aging" have long been a matter of course on the agenda of the age-scientific discussion: "Gender is a crucial organizing principle in society that profoundly shapes the experience of old age and aging and the distribution of resources to older women. "[1]

Dimensions of gender-specific age (es) are examined there in a variety of ways in their individual meaning ("gendered identities in old age" [2]) and as a dimension of social structure in changing societies ("Patriarchy and the sex / gender system" [3] ). [4] It is about "Gender roles as structured inequality" and "Social construction of gender" as well as about "Putting gender in life course context" [5] and "The body, gender, and age" [6], just a few examples of the very broad thematic spectrum. And in a monograph published in England in 2003 on the topic: "Social theory, social policy and aging. A critical introduction" by Carroll L. Estes, Simon Biggs and Chris Phillipson, topics such as "The politics of aging", "Aging and globalization "," Age and identity "or" Productive aging, self-surveillance and social policy "the topic:" Feminist perspectives and old age policy "is also on the agenda. It deals with questions of feminist epistemology and perspectives on age, social policy and the state, on feminist economics, theories of male rule, on ideology, gender and social movements as well as on feminist transformation and politics of old age. [7]

In the German-speaking area - in Germany, Austria and Switzerland - there are still far fewer scientific analyzes on the subject of "gender and age (es)", although the baseline results are similar to those in the Anglophone research tradition mentioned above. A manageable number of researches in this subject area developed in gerontology and age (n) sociology, [8] in part also in the feminist criticism of social systems [9] as part of women's and gender research. The first more far-reaching approaches can be found, for example, in the discussion of the "effects of female longevity on lifestyles and intergenerational relationships" [10] and, more recently, also in the consideration of the "other" age (es) of men [11] and the transition of women from working life into retirement. [12] In the meantime, "gender" is recognized at least as a necessary differentiator, also with regard to age (es) (examples of this are the reports of the inquiry commission "Demographic Change" or the five previous reports on the elderly by the Federal Government). When it comes to the need for this differentiation and a more detailed analysis, facts and figures speak for themselves. It would be considered scientifically and politically inadmissible not to pay attention to the dimension "social gender" when looking at age (es). In some places it is already being replaced by the dimension "diversity", without the consequences of this development for an appropriate analysis of the subject of "gender and age (es)" having always been sufficiently considered.