End Game : How Inequality Shapes Our Final Years
Senior citizens from all walks of life face a gauntlet of physical, psychological, and social hurdles. But do the disadvantages some people accumulate over the course of their lives make their final years especially difficult? Or does the quality of life among poor and affluent seniors converge at some point? The End Game investigates whether persistent socioeconomic, racial, and gender divisions in America create inequalities that structure the lives of the elderly.
Corey Abramson’s portraits of seniors from diverse backgrounds offer an intimate look at aging as a stratified social process. They illustrate that disparities in wealth, access to health care, neighborhood conditions, and networks of friends and family shape how different people understand and adapt to the challenges of old age. Social Security and Medicare are helpful but insufficient to alleviate deep structural inequalities. Yet material disadvantages alone cannot explain why seniors respond to aging in different ways. Culture, in all its variations, plays a crucial role.
Abramson argues that studying the experience of aging is central to understanding inequality, in part because this segment of the population is rapidly growing. But there is another reason. The shared challenges of the elderly—declining mobility and health, loss of loved ones and friends—affect people across the socioeconomic spectrum, allowing for powerful ethnographic comparisons that are difficult to make earlier in life. The End Game makes clear that, despite the shared experiences of old age, inequality remains a powerful arbiter of who wins and who loses in American society.