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The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Thomas R. Cole(Author)

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The Journey of Life is both a cultural history of aging and a contribution to public dialogue about the meaning and significance of later life. The core of the book shows how central texts and images of Northern middle-class culture, first in Europe and then in America, created and sustained specifically modern images of the life course between the Reformation and World War I. During this long period, secular, scientific and individualist tendencies steadily eroded ancient and medieval understandings of aging as a mysterious part of the eternal order of things. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, however, postmodern images of life's journey offer a renewed awareness of the spiritual dimensions of later life and new opportunities for growth in an aging society.

Cole, an associate professor at the University of Texas, here explores the evolution of societal attitudes toward aging, gender and familial ideals from antiquity to the present, discussing both political and philosophical influences. He devotes a major portion of this excellent and accessible scholarly study to examining a wide variety of religious beliefs, many of which envision life as a spiritual pilgrimage. However, with the rise of secular individualism, today's "scientific management" of aging has prolonged the life span, Cole observes, and liberated older men and women of many burdens and duties. On the other hand, he contends, the elderly have been deprived of their traditional cultural roles, special functions and positions in society. Furthermore, he notes, with a youth-oriented culture that tends to consider aging a chronic disease, the spiritual aspects of growing old and of death as natural parts of the life cycle have been slighted. Illustrations. Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. What has it meant to be old? With the increasing interest in aging, medical and self-help books are crowding our shelves. This work challenges the assumption of value-free studies of aging and offers a critical evaluation of the meanings of aging in American society. Deftly interweaving religion, economics, gender, health trends, and science, Cole documents the period from the Reformation to post-World War I. Tracing the decline of religious values, the rise of the economic pressures of individualism, and the reliance on scientific management of health, he offers new insights into patterns of behavior. An excellent addition to the literature on aging, this book presents complex information in a clear and engaging style.- Jan Blodgett, St. Mary's Cty. Records Ctr. & Archives, Leonardtown, Md.Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Book details

  • PDF | 295 pages
  • Thomas R. Cole(Author)
  • Cambridge University Press (November 29, 1991)
  • English
  • 3
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Review Text

  • By ShawarmaEmpire on February 13, 2015

    I rarely review books that were required for class, but because this one is exceptional in the degree of misery it caused me, I make an exception. First, roughly a third of each chapter is a summary of the previous chapter; the book really ought to be half to two thirds its length. Secondly, this is not an American history. It makes no attempt to feature anyone who is not well-to-do, white, male, Anglo-Saxon-- with the exception of a few well-to-do, white, Anglo-Saxon women. It is even regionally biased, in that all points of view are based on those of New Englanders. Finally, at no point was the prose easy to get through. Ten pages will drag on forever. While reading this I couldn't shake the thought that my life was unbearably long, and that some how this book had magically expanded time. I realize this book isn't meant to entertain, but no motive could temper the displeasure this book inspired.Through painful persistence you may gain an idea of what a very limited segment of American society thought about ageing through time. From what I have heard, there are few books on the history of ageing or the perception of ageing. If you are interested in the subject it's quite possible reading this might be bearable, and probably unavoidable. I would say that anthropological studies on ageing would be much more interesting.However, my house has never been so clean because I will do anything to delay reading this book.

  • By Millie A. Loeb on January 18, 2011

    This excellent, thoughtful history, based on the author's dissertation is both well researched with strong underpinnings os philosophic depth. I highly recommend it.

  • By New Lebanon on September 9, 2012

    This is a useful discussion of how ideas about aging and older people have changed over time. It's well written and thoughtful.

  • By Leiah Bowden, intuitive artist, creator of Lightspeak Energy Portraits on September 5, 2000

    If you're scared of what awaits you as you age in this country where the frail elderly are too often bereft in short-staffed institutions and by and large exiled from the mainstream of our society no matter where or how they happen to live, you will probably find hope in this book, which shows by historical example that we change. The Journey of Life : A Cultural History of Aging in America is a well written vista of American social perceptions. Tom Cole writes as if he is fascinated by the panorama of his research into how Americans have seen the elderly and aging. He shows us the views we have moved through in strategic detail, not overwhelming us with statistics or boring us with long, dull paragraphs of psycho-social explanations, but carefully exposing the layers of American belief, fear, hope, and socio-economic reality from which have arisen our views of death, aging, and the aged from the early days through the present. From vile, malevolent curmudgeons on their way to the dark pit of annihilation to sweet, harmless fools shuffling through zippedy-doo-da landscapes toward automatic acceptance into a radiant heaven, to the present, where we simply seem to lose our faces in the rush of hyper-productivity and adoration of the sexy young, the American view of the aged and aging constantly changes, reflecting the dominant perceptions of our society.

  • By McCullers on July 17, 2005

    Cole provides a rich study of the culture of aging in America. Exhaustively researched, The Journey of Life is a must for gerontologists, policymakers, medical professionals, and anyone who is interested in a deeper understanding of why we believe what we do about aging in America, factors influencing these beliefs, and how they have developed over time. Its academic tone can make for a dry read early on, but overall, very well written and intriguing.


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