"Old age" as a social location: Theorizing institutional processes, cultural expectations, and interactional practices. By: Barken, Rachel. Sociology Compass. April 2019, Vol. 13 Issue 4.

The graying of societies and growing inequality call for increased attention to age relations and their implications for power, status, and constraint in late life. In this paper, I argue old age is a distinct—and devalued—social location that exists amid intersecting relations of inequality. Using an integrative approach, I synthesize selected sociological research on the institutional processes, cultural expectations, and interactional practices underlying the social construction of old age. I then review research in the areas of family care work and employment to illustrate some empirical contexts where age relations intersect with gender, class, race, and ethnicity to structure divergent opportunities and constraints among older people. This paper maps out significant theoretical and substantive signposts in the sociology of old age to build connections across levels of analysis, and to provide a nuanced, comprehensive approach to patterned inequalities in late life.