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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Does Gerontology Really Serve Us??

Is the field of gerontology really serving humankind? Does it really assist us in understanding ourselves or the life process? Does it even study the important things about the aging process? I ask this because what I'm seeing is alarming.

With an apparent lust for all things related to the biology of aging we continue to get scholarly studies with a never ending array of facts about how we can be more active, eat better, practice your memory skills, work out, stop worrying, think harder, and develop new relationships. Don't get me wrong, those are all important to a long and vigorous life. But, is that all there is?

This singular focus on biology leads to a huge bias that leads most professionals in the field to treat aging as if it were a disease, something, if not terrible, at least unfortunate and certainly something to be avoided wherever possible. It's as if all we see are the 3Ds; dysfunction, decay and death. Where are the studies about the psychology of aging? The life-long opportunities for development and humanist studies?

The science of aging is young. Gerontology is "new in its methods and youthful in its hopes and outlook; its researchers tend to be young." Psychologist James Hillman goes on to say that youthfulness studying aging will naturally view the related issues through the lens of youth. If this is true about Gerontology (and I suspect it is), won't its research be skewed against anything that does not look like youth as the pinnacle of human development?

Aging is not just a physical process, though. And this is my point. It also is a process of finding meaning, purpose, character and self-improvement throughout the life-course. Where are the studies about these parts of aging? Where are the studies that go beyond the model of aging as a disease? Its as if our gerontologists have given up and settled for the easy stuff...monitoring the "disease". Where are the studies of the aging human body as a source of insight, courage, grace, honor, humor and character.

It's as if we use the idea of death, the natural end point of biology, as a reason to give up on any other study, observations or even conversations about the aging process. Without these we just continue to perpetuate fear and ignorance about aging and "oldness". For if aging is just a disease we are all certainly terminal and we can stop studying!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The past two posts are so right on I am more than impressedwith what you are doing and so very glad to be part of it. You have indeed captured the "essence" of the golden years and their value above the glitter of it.