Along with economic changes, the social context within which older individuals and families function is also changing, affecting, among other things, the nature of certain types of social relationships and institutions that provide part of the support infrastructure available to older persons. Demographic and social trends — such as changes in marriage and fertility preferences, the increasing fragility of unions, the decline of the intact nuclear family, the increasing amount of time for some young people to transition to adulthood and the continuing improvements in health and disability at older ages—all influence the amount and types of support available to older persons and their need for support.
To deal effectively with the challenges created by population aging, it is vital to first understand these demographic, economic, and social changes and, to the extent possible, their causes, consequences and implications. Sociology offers a knowledge base, a number of useful analytic approaches and tools, and unique theoretical perspectives that can be important aids to this task. Furthermore, sociology is at its heart an integrative science, perhaps the discipline that is best suited for “integrating what is known about human behavior”.