University of Texas of the Permian Basin Department of Social Sciences

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University of Texas of the Permian Basin

Department of Social Sciences

Sociology Program

SOCI 4360.001 – Sociology of Aging

Fall 2014
Instructor: Jeff Dennis, Ph.D.

Office: MB 3234

Office Phone: (432) 552-2361

Office Hours: Tues. & Thurs., 1:30-4:00 PM

and by appointment


Class period: Tuesday & Thursday, 4:15-5:30 PM

Class location: MB 3251

The sociological study of aging, broadly speaking, examines the social processes associated with aging over the life course. While we associate aging with old age, it occurs throughout our lives. In regard to health, we will examine factors that contribute to aging and longevity in different populations. Additionally, we will examine issues associated with aging including Medicare, Social Security, end of life decisions, entitlements, economic & family issues, and retirement.

Course Objectives

  • To understand the life course perspective and basic theories of aging

  • To understand the intersection of biological and social issues relating to aging populations

  • To evaluate social policies related aging using a sociological perspective

  • To examine issues relating to Medicare and other health care related issues pertaining to aging populations

  • To engage the ongoing debate on Social Security, with a specific attention to historical and contemporary issues surrounding the program

  • To gain experience with both critical reading and writing relating to aging from a sociological perspective

  • To engage, family issues, entitlements, and decision making issues relating to an aging population

  • To examine end of life issues and be able to critically examine competing viewpoints on the topic

Note: Please do read the material before the assigned day so that you can make an educated contribution to the topic discussed.

This Class is WEB enhanced through Blackboard.
Required Texts:

  • Newman, Katherine. 2006. Different Shade of Gray: Midlife and Beyond in the Inner City. The New Press

  • Albom, Mitch. 1997. Tuesdays with Morrie. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Corp. (Any edition will suffice)

The books are available at the campus bookstore.

Additional required readings will be made available in class or through Blackboard. Announcements about such readings will be made in class and on Blackboard Announcements.
Course Requirements
1. Writing Assignments/Response Papers (20%):

This part of your grade will include a total of 5 short writing assignments for the term. You will have up to 7 different topics over the course of the semester to choose from, and therefore you will select your 5 from among those. Each short writing assignment will be 1-2 pages double spaced, worth 4% of your grade each.

Assignments will be discussed in class when they are assigned. Additionally, instructions will always be posted on Blackboard, and I will typically email an announcement to the class when they have been posted. Therefore, if you attend class regularly and check email regularly, you should have absolutely no trouble being aware of these assignments.

Late assignments will receive a deduction of 5% for each class period they are late. For example, if you miss the Thursday deadline for an assignment, it can be turned in the following Tuesday by the end of class with a 5% deduction or the following Thursday at a 10% deduction. Turning in assignments late is far preferable to not turning them in at all, as failure to submit homework will adversely affect this portion of your grade.

2. Mid Term examination (20%):

The mid-term examination will involve any combination of multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions. We will review the test material during a class period prior to the exam.

3. Final exam (30%):

The final examination will involve any combination of multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions. We will review the test material during a class period prior to the exam. The final examination will cover material since the midterm, although in a class like this one, some of the ideas we use early on will be expanded upon throughout the semester. Therefore, while the final is not cumulative, some of the ideas from before the midterm may be relevant in your completion of the final exam.

4. Attendance (10%):

Attendance is strongly encouraged and will be a vital part of your comprehension of course materials. You are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the readings and should be ready to introduce questions or comments on the topics during the class period. If you fail to come prepared or participate in class (talking, texting, sleeping), do not expect to be counted present for the day.

5. Policy Paper (20%)

You will be expected to write one longer paper (4-5 pages), in which you apply your knowledge about the sociology of aging to a current issue. You will be expected to integrate relevant research and current statistics to form an argument about your topic. I will give you a sample set of topics well in advance, but you may select a different topic of your choosing, to be approved by me, if you prefer to write on something of personal interest to you.

I reserve the right to make part of your grade derived from submitting a first outline or draft of the paper.
Grading Summary:
The final grade will be based on the following:
Assignments: 20%

Mid term: 20%

Final paper: 30%

Attendance: 10%

Policy Paper: 20%
Note: You are strongly advised to submit papers and take exams on the given deadlines. If you have a very serious reason for missing a deadline, please let me know in advance.

Make-up Exams: Should you need to miss an exam for a legitimate reason, you must contact me BEFORE the scheduled exam. Make-up exams must be taken WITHIN ONE WEEK of the missed exam. It is your responsibility to inform me of any extenuating circumstances that might affect your ability to complete course requirements.
Academic Dishonesty: The University expects all students to engage in all academic pursuits in a manner that is beyond reproach. Plagiarism is considered Academic Dishonesty by the university. Plagiarism involves copying directly somebody's paper or book without giving credit to the author or turning in an unoriginal paper. In this case the student will receive an "F" for the course and be dealt with according to the guidelines of the university.

  • Special Needs: Americans with Disabilities (504/ADA) Notice: The University of Texas of the Permian Basin intends to make reasonable accommodation for its students with special learning requirements. You may document your special needs through the University Office for Programs Assisting Students Study (PASS). Contact the PASS office at 552-2630 for further information. Please make sure to notify your professor.

  • Questions/ Problems: Please contact me as early as possible if you have issues that I can assist you with. Do not wait until the end of the semester to address important issues regarding your grade.

  • Laptop/Phone policy: I will allow laptops in the classroom, but I reserve the right to set policy during the semester regarding their usage depending on how they affect classroom dynamics. Please do not text message during class. If you have an urgent situation that needs to be dealt with, I welcome you to step out of class to make a phone call, etc., but ask that you not text during class.

Important University Dates:

Please be aware of all UTPB add/drop deadlines, as well as graduation and other pertinent deadlines. You may find these dates on the UTPB web here:
The following is the proposed schedule. It is subject to change due to special circumstances.
Additional readings will be made available throughout the semester via Blackboard or handout.
I Aug. 26 Introduction

II Sept. 2 Life Course Perspective

Readings Provided

III Sept. 9 Theories of Aging

Newman Introduction & Ch. 1

IV Sept. 16 Demographics of Aging

Readings Provided
V Sept. 23 Intellectual Functioning & Aging

Newman Ch. 2 & 3

VI Sept. 30 Life Course Health

Newman Ch. 4

VII Oct. 7 Medicare/Health Care Rationing

Newman Ch. 5

VIII Oct. 14 Freedom in Decision Making

Tuesdays with Morrie

Midterm Exam – Oct. 14th

IX Oct. 21 End of Life Decisions

Tuesdays with Morrie

X Oct. 28 Death & Dying

Tuesdays with Morrie

XI Nov. 4 Economic Issues

Newman Ch. 6 & 7

XII Nov. 11 Entitlements

Newman Ch. 8

XIII Nov. 18 Social Security

Readings provided

XIV Nov. 25 Retirement Issues & Policies

Readings provided
XV Dec. 2 Family Obligations

Readings Provided


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