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By Leo Driedger

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We think of modernization beginning in a folk or rural area that has not yet become urbanized. Here family solidarity, security, and stability are the norm, often segregated in ethnic enclaves where culture, language, and symbolism are fairly stable. With limited change, modest education, and food-gathering or foodproducing occupations, differentiation among members of the community is also on a small scale. Thus, it is easier for the elderly to retain a valued place where social nearness is common and differentiation of labour and retirement are fairly informal.

The elderly in past times were not necessarily revered. Others have assessed the model through comparisons of different societies and report a variety of findings. Palmore and Manton (1973) studied 31 countries in various stages of modernization (using indicators of economic technology, urbanization, and education). They found that those societies that were more modern, according to occupation and education indicators, accorded relatively high status to their elderly. In response, Cowgill (1974) argues that the detrimental effects to the status and interests of the aged in the early period of modernization may "bottom out" in later periods.

Youth have the advantage in training for and adapting to new urban occupations, which emerge ever more rapidly on the economic scene. Labour unions are trying to slow the pace of technological change in the postal service, in factories, and the like, but such innovations are escalating so that modernization is difficult to stop. Youth are also more mobile, seeking new frontiers geographically as well as occupationally. In many cases older parents find themselves in less prestigious, more static, occupations.

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