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Concepts and Controversies

Tenth Edition
Additional resources:

August 2020 | 640 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Aging: Concepts and Controversies is structured to encourage a style of teaching and learning that goes beyond conveying facts and methods. This innovative text focuses on controversies and questions rather than on assimilating facts or creating a single “correct” view about aging or older people. Drawing on their extensive expertise, authors Harry R. Moody and Jennifer R. Sasser first provide an overview of aging in three domains: aging over the life course, health care, and socioeconomic trends. Each section then includes data and conceptual frameworks, helping students to make sense of the controversies and understand their origin, engage in critical thinking, and develop their own views. The Tenth Edition of this hallmark textbook includes amplified discussions focused on differences, diversity, structural inequalities, and inclusion, as well as contemporary issues, including climate change and immigration.


SAGE Edge gives instructors and students the edge they need to succeed with an array of teaching and learning tools in one easy-to-navigate website. Learn more:


About the Authors
Part 1: Basic Concepts I. A Life Course Perspective on Aging
Age Identification

The Stages of Life

The Life Course and Aging

Traditional Theories of Aging

Influences on the Life Course

Aging in the 21st Century

The Biology of Aging

Aging and Psychological Functioning


Chapter 1: Controversy 1. Does Old Age Have Meaning?
The Meaning of Age

Leisure Activities in Later Life

Religion and Spirituality

Gerontology and the Meaning of Age

Activity or Reflection?

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Chapter 2: Controversy 2. Why Do Our Bodies Grow Old?
The Process of Biological Aging

Biological Theories of Aging

Is Aging Inevitable?

Compression or Prolongation of Morbidity?

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Chapter 3: Controversy 3. Do Intelligence and Creativity Decline With Age?
Elements of Cognitive Function

The Classic Aging Pattern

Measures of Late-Life Intelligence

Studies of Age and Cognitive Function

Correlates of Cognitive Stability

Creativity in an Aging Population

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Part 2: Basic Concepts II. Aging, Health Care, and Society
The Challenge of Longevity

Epidemiology of Aging

Economics of Health Care

Long-Term Care

Self-Determined Death


Chapter 4: Controversy 4. Should We Ration Health Care for Older People?
Precedents for Health Care Rationing

The Justification for Age-Based Rationing

Rationing as a Cost-Saving Plan

The Impetus for Rationing

Cost Versus Age

Alternative Approaches to Rationing

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

The Debate Over Age-Based Rationing

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Chapter 5: Controversy 5. Should Families Provide for Their Own?
Aging and the American Family

Abandonment or Independence?

Family Responsibility

Medicaid and Long-Term Care

Financing Long-Term Care

Medicaid Planning

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Chapter 6: Controversy 6. Should Older People Be Protected From Bad Choices?
The Vulnerabilities of Older People

Interfering When People Make Bad Choices

Elder Abuse and Mistreatment

Perceptions of Quality of Life

Sexuality in Later Life

Crime and Older Adults

Intervention in the Lives of Vulnerable Older Adults

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Chapter 7: Controversy 7. Should People Have the Choice to End Their Lives?
Depression and Suicide

The “Right to Die”

Outlook for the Future

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Part 3: Basic Concepts III. Social and Economic Outlook for an Aging Society
The Varieties of Aging Experience

The Economic Status of Older Americans

Public Policy on Aging


Chapter 8: Controversy 8. Should Age or Need Be the Basis for Entitlement?
A Tale of Two Generations

Justice Between Generations

The Least-Advantaged Older Adults

Help for Those Most in Need

The Targeting Debate

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Chapter 9: Controversy 9. What Is the Future for Social Security?
Main Features of Social Security

Success—and Doubt

Pay as You Go

Social Security Trust Fund



Women and Social Security

Debate Over Social Security

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Chapter 10: Controversy 10. Is Retirement Obsolete?
History of Retirement

Origins of Late-Life Leisure

Changes in the American Economy

A New View of Retirement

Debate Over Retirement Policy

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Chapter 11: Controversy 11. Aging Boomers: Boom or Bust?
Who Are the Boomers?

What Is a Generation? Age-Period-Cohort Analysis

Social Construction of the Boomer Phenomenon

Boomers in the Years Ahead

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Chapter 12: Controversy 12. The New Aging Marketplace: Hope or Hype?
The New Customer Majority

Market Sectors Likely to Grow

What Do Older Consumers Want?

Limits of the Marketplace Model

Questions for Writing, Reflection, and Debate

Epilogue: Finding Your Place in an Aging Society
Appendix: Tips for Conducting Your Own Research in Gerontology


Student Resources
SAGE Edge for students enhances learning, it’s easy to use, and offers:
  • an open-access site that makes it easy for students to maximize their study time, anywhere, anytime; and
  • eFlashcards that strengthen understanding of key terms and concepts.
Instructor Resources

SAGE Edge for instructors supports your teaching by making it easy to integrate quality content and create a rich learning environment for students with:
  • a password-protected site for complete and protected access to all text-specific instructor resources;  
  • test banks that provide a diverse range of ready-to-use options that save you time. You can also easily edit any question and/or insert your own personalized questions; and
  • editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides that offer complete flexibility for creating a multimedia presentation for your course.

“[Moody and Sasser] is very relevant and relatable for the graduate students. They appreciate the diverse perspectives on various issues affecting the aging population.”

Tamara Wolske
University of Indianapolis

“I believe this book contains the best information for students who are new to aging concepts. This text is the most comprehensive in relation to course objectives and outcomes.”

Angela Johnson
MHA, Indiana State University

“Completely relatable as it discusses concepts broadly and offers a critical approach.”

Elizabeth Edson Chapleski, MSW, PhD
Wayne State University

“I have used this text for years and love it!”

Linda J. Keilman, DNP, GNP-BC, FAANP
Michigan State University

“One of the [book’s] greatest strengths is the emphasis that there is no one right answer to some of these problems, that it is possible for smart people to come up with different solutions.”

Twyla Hill
Wichita State University
Key features
  • A stronger link between concepts and controversies across three primary domains—the life course, health care, and socioeconomic trends.
  • Themes of aging as a process over the entire life course, large-scale social and economic trends impacting each generation, and ways aging can be shaped by social inequality are enhanced.
  •  Amplified discussions focused on differences, diversity, structural inequalities, and inclusion, as well as contemporary issues such as climate change and immigration, are included.
  • A greater focus on critical thinking in gerontology found though the integration of thought experiments in each chapter.
  • New Thinking Critically boxes provide students with an opportunity to reflect on, think critically about, and apply key ideas by exploring how aging is increasingly a global phenomenon with lessons of international significance.
  • Cited information is updated and reflects the most recent data, research, perspectives, and issues available.


  • This text embraces current controversies in the broad area of aging, including health care, socioeconomic trends, and the life course.
  • Controversy 11 (Aging Boomers: Boom or Bust?) focuses on a timely subject, presenting arguments on both the “boom” and the “bust” sides of the issue along with carefully selected readings.
  • Focus on Practice and Focus on the Future sections pique students' interests and help them apply concepts to real-world issues.
  • An Urban Legends in Aging feature explores common stereotypes about aging and the aging population.
  • Global Perspective sections provide examples of lived experiences and social policies around the world.

Preview this book

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

For instructors

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