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In recent decades, the North American public has pursued an inspirational vision of successful aging—striving through medical technique and individual effort to eradicate the declines, vulnerabilities, and dependencies previously commonly associated with old age. On the face of it, this bold new vision of successful, healthy, and active aging is highly appealing. But it also rests on a deep cultural discomfort with aging and being old.
The contributors to Successful Aging as a Contemporary Obsession explore how the successful aging movement is playing out across five continents. Their chapters investigate a variety of people, including Catholic nuns in the United States; Hindu ashram dwellers; older American women seeking plastic surgery; aging African-American lesbians and gay men in the District of Columbia; Chicago home health care workers and their aging clients; Mexican men foregoing Viagra; dementia and Alzheimer sufferers in the United States and Brazil; and aging policies in Denmark, Poland, India, China, Japan, and Uganda. This book offers a fresh look at a major cultural and public health movement of our time, questioning what has become for many a taken-for-granted goal—aging in a way that almost denies aging itself.
About the Author
SARAH LAMB is a professor of anthropology at Brandeis University. She is the author of White Saris and Sweet Mangoes: Aging, Gender, and Body in North India.
"With public conversation about control of aging at an all-time high, these rich ethnographies from around the globe challenge stereotypes of success, failure, and ageism as they illustrate how vitality and vulnerability, independence, need, and care are resourcefully enacted. A timely corrective, this volume is essential for anyone interested in the diverse practices of interdependence and self-making in the world's ever-aging societies."
— Sharon R. Kaufman
"Lamb provides incisive deconstruction of modern notions of ‘successful aging,’ offering a wealth of theoretical perspectives on, and ethnographic illustrations of, approaches to aging in different cultural settings across the globe."
— Jeanne Shea
"[A] valuable aspect of Successful Aging as a Contemporary Obsession is its global perspective....Lamb has done extensive fieldwork in West Bengal, where, far from being idealized, 'too much independence is commonly regarded as the worst thing that can befall one in old age.'"
— This Chair Rocks
"The book offers insightful and sometimes highly emotional accounts of how we find meaning in the limits of our human condition, making it a delightful read regardless of one’s professional orientation."
— Anthropology News