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Ageing and the limiting conditions of the body

Gilleard, C; Higgs, P; (1998) Ageing and the limiting conditions of the body. SOCIOL RES ONLINE , 3 (4) U56 - U70.

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Abstract

The twentieth century has seen a remarkable shift in thinking about old age. For increasing numbers of people reaching retirement there are numerous competing and contradictory messages about how age and ageing are viewed in contemporary society. The lack of any simple linear relationship between chronological age and physiological fitness and the evident variability with which physical ageing expresses itself challenges a determining biological foundation for old age. Structured dependency theory suggests that much of what we accept as 'ageing' arises from social practices rather than physiological ageing. More recently there has been a growing reaction to this position, particularly to some of its resource implications. Several writers have begun to seek once more to place a limit around ageing whilst claiming to restore a social meaning to the final stage of life. Others have challenged the emphasis upon a biomedical view of old age and sought a return to a greater acceptance of 'finitude'. At the very same time there is a renewed vigour in modernist claims to 'put ageing into reverse' as popular medical and self-help literature offer to make the promise of rejuvenation a reality. Biologists themselves have begun to question the determinacy of a genetically fixed lifespan. The appearance, disappearance and re-appearance of the body in gerontology parallel evolving post-War social policies toward health and disability. Debates around the limits of the ageing body illustrate the powerful links between gerontology, culture and contemporary social theory.

Type:Article
Title:Ageing and the limiting conditions of the body
Keywords:ageing, concepts, limits, social policy, OLD-AGE, HEALTH-CARE, MORTALITY, COMPRESSION, ALLOCATION, MORBIDITY, RESOURCES, TRENDS
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Medicine (Division of)

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