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