Aging, Death, & Capitalism

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
SOCI 3345
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course examines aging and death as a social process as it relates to the rise of capitalism and its related institutions. The rise of capitalist societies in the 19th century profoundly shaped the experience of aging and dying. Modern medicine and technologies have dramatically extended life spans while enabling us to avoid dying and death as a reality until old age. Culturally, capitalist societies stigmatize old age while idealizing youthfulness as exhibited in mass media and the lucrative multi-billion dollar beauty products industry. Today, aging is often considered a “disease” that can be “cured” with technologies provided by our capitalist economy, transforming our sense of self as we move through different stages of life. Drawing on the insights of classical and contemporary sociological theory, the course considers individual experiences of aging and dying, wider patterns of stratification and inequality related to old age, as well as demographic shifts in the aging population in Canada and across the globe. Finally, this course critically examines various socio-cultural and historical attitudes and practices concerning dying and death.
Course Content
  1. Theories of Capitalism, Aging & Society
  2. Global Demographic Trends in Industrialized Societies
  3. Poor Houses, Nursing Homes, and the Biomedicalization of Aging
  4. Industrialization, the Welfare State, and Aging
  5. Work, Retirement, and Economic Security
  6. Intersectionality, Inequality, and Aging
  7. Aging & Political Participation
  8. The Aging Body
  9. Attitudes Towards Death
  10. Dying & Death in the Context of Canadian Social Institutions
  11. Age & Death: Generational Differences
  12. Suicide & Medically Assisted Death
  13. Choices & Support Systems for the Dying
Learning Activities
  • Lecture
  • Small group exercises
  • Class discussion
  • Computer lab work
  • Audio-visual materials
  • Guest speakers
Means of Assessment

Evaluation will take place in accordance with the Douglas College Evaluation Policy. Evaluation will be based on course objectives and may include quizzes, exams, critical essays, literature reviews, term/research projects, oral presentations, multi-media presentations and a personal family and age project.  The specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the course.

An example of one evaluation scheme is:

Two mid-term exams  45%
One group project  20%
One research project  25%
One final quiz  10%
Total 100%

Students may conduct research with human participants as part of their coursework in this class. Instructors for the course are responsible for ensuring that student research projects comply with College policies on ethical conduct for research involving humans.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of the course, the successful student will be able to:

  • Identify major streams of sociological theory with regards to aging in capitalist societies;
  • Define capitalism, industrialization, modernity and post modernity;
  • Define social gerontology and ‘old age’;
  • Describe the rise of biomedicalization as it relates to aging and dying and other institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes;
  • Compare the Canadian demographic profile to global aging trends in industrialized societies;
  • Define and give examples of aging across the life course within the context of postmodernism in a global comparative perspective;
  • Describe transforming economic conditions between traditional and modern societies as it relates to changing institutions of aging, dying and death;
  • Identify how intersecting axes of inequality (race, gender, class and sexual orientation), as well as power and status structures created by capitalism shape the experience of aging and death, including unpaid care work
  • Discuss the emergence of the welfare state in relationship to industrialization;
  • Explain how labour force trends are relevant to retirement and aging;
  • Explain the relationship between social participation and quality of life;
  • Identify supports contributing to the care and well-being of older populations;
  • Discuss medically assisted death and historical-legal dimensions;
  • Compare several different cultural approaches to aging, dying, and death.


Textbook Materials


  • Laura Funk.  Sociological Perspectives on Aging.  Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Herbert C. Northcott and Donna M. Wilson. Dying and Death in Canada.  Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2017.


Texts will be updated periodically. 



SOCI 1125 or SOCI 1145 or SOCI 1155 (or 2nd year status and Instructor’s permission)


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for SOCI 3345
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU SA 2XX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU SOCI 3XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU SOCI 2XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO SOCI 280 (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV SOCI 2nd (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV SOC 3XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC SOCI 3XX (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU SOCI 3rd (3)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023