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Early gerontological theories (e.g., role theory, subculture theory, disengagement theory, activity theory and modernization theory) on the study of the elderly used to concentrate on the discussion of the effects of various kinds of social change on individuals' later life adaptation. Modernization has conventionally been perceived as a bad dream for most elderly people. It is the modernization which deskills them, devalues their experiences, take away their authority, ... and finally leaves them in misery.

The validity and applicability of this simple relationship between modernization and the misery of later life as a result of the decline of social status have been challenged by more recent comparative studies on a number of developing and non-western developed societies. There are also growing evidences in both developed and developing societies showing that the quality of life is improving rather than deteriorating. This paper, by presenting some of the findings of the author's survey of 198 elderly people and 245 younger adults in Hong Kong, tries to demonstrate the possibility of the existence of some positive effects of modernization on later life.

This paper also tries to highlight the conceptual and methodological biases of the traditional elderly research on which the negative association between modernization and the social status of the elderly is based.


CPPS Working Paper Series No.59 (15/97)

Recommended Citation

Law, W. K. K. (1997). Positive effects of modernization on later life (CPPS Working Paper Series No.59). Retrieved from Lingnan University website:

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