Ageing, Death, and the Life Course

Module code: SY3070

Module co-ordinator: Dr Jane Pilcher

Issues such as the ageing of the population, the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood, or the role of youth in the future economic and political development of their countries are at the heart of political debate and policy developments in every society around the world. This makes ageing, or the process of growing up and growing older (and, eventually, dying), a vibrant and exciting topic to study from a sociological perspective. In this module, we will explore how the processes of growing up, growing older, and dying are socially and culturally organised, especially in contemporary Western societies.

This video by artist Anthony Cerniello shows the physical effects of ageing by combining footage of multiple members of one family.


Our physical existence is finite, and from the moment of our birth to the moment of our death, we grow older. Sociologically, age is a complex meshing of bodily ageing, stage in life course, and location in historical time. We will consider:

  • How our age shapes our individual and social identities
  • How our age impacts on our experiences and opportunities
  • The impact that ageing and age relationships have on the various institutions of society, including paid work, culture, and the welfare state

Topics covered

  • Conceptualising age: body, life course, and cohort
  • Childhood: body, history, and crisis
  • Youth: cultures and transition
  • Adulthood: the dominant stage
  • Middle age: body and social change
  • Old age: inequalities, ageism, and resistance
  • Death, dying, and society
  • Ageing of the population
  • Talkin’ ‘bout my generation: social generations and social change 


  • Eighteen one-hour lectures
  • Eight one-hour seminars


  • Exam (100%)