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Aging in Today's World: Conversations between an Anthropologist and a Physician

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Volume 4

Public Issues in Anthropological Perspective

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Aging in Today's World

Conversations between an Anthropologist and a Physician

Renée Rose Shield and Stanley M. Aronson

256 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-57181-420-3 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (May 2003)

ISBN  978-1-57181-080-9 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (May 2005)

eISBN 978-1-78238-724-4 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Buy the eBook from these vendorsRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


"... an informed and informative inquiry ... welcome and very highly recommended contribution to Geriatric Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists."  ·  The Midwest Book Review

"Here, for a welcome change, is a genuine dialogue on later life, rather than a lecture; and it comes from two people who are real practitioners of the art of aging, not just pundits. The authors pack history, demography, anthropology, medicine, and personal experience into a comprehensive, reflective, and deeply-felt view of this critical subject."  ·  Joel Savishinksy, Ph.D., Ithaca College

“The authors’ project is an original and relevant venture. It contributes in a constructive way to the discussion of aging by opening our eyes to the variety among the aged.”  ·  Focaal


Never before in human existence have the aged been so numerous — and for the most part — healthy. In this important new book, two professionals, an anthropologist and a physician, wrestle with the complex subject of aging. Is it inevitable? Is it a burden or gift? What is successful aging? Why are some people better at aging than others? Where is aging located? How does it vary among individuals, within and between groups, cultures, societies, and indeed, over the centuries? Reflecting on these and other questions, the authors comment on the impact age has in their lives and work.

Two unique viewpoints are presented. While medicine approaches aging with special attention given to the body, its organs, and its functions over time, anthropology focuses on how the aged live within their cultural settings. As this volume makes clear, the two disciplines have a great deal to teach each other, and in a spirited exchange, the authors show how professional barriers can be surmounted.

In a novel approach, each author explores a different aspect of aging in alternating chapters. These chapters are in turn followed by a commentary by the other. Further, the authors interrupt each other within the chapters - to raise questions, contradict, ask for clarification, and explore related ideas - with these interjections emphasizing the dynamic nature of their ideas about age. Finally, a third "voice" - that of a random old man - periodically inserts itself into the text to remind the authors of their necessarily limited understanding of the subject.

Renée Rose Shield , PhD is Clinical Associate Professor of Community Health at Brown University in Providence, RI. A cultural anthropologist specializing in aging, her previous books include Uneasy Endings: Daily Life in an American Nursing Home (1988) and Diamond Stories: Enduring Change on 47thStreet (2002).

Stanley M. Aronson (1922-2015), MD, MPH, was University Professor of Medical Science and Dean of Medicine Emeritus, Brown University and founding dean of its medical school. He specialized in the clinical neurosciences, authored a number of medical textbooks and wrote a weekly column for the Providence Journal.

Subject: Applied AnthropologySociologyMedical Anthropology


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