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Aging:The Original Human Condition Essay

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Aging:The Original Human Condition


Aging is a phenomena we are all familiar with, a trait characteristic of all humankind, in fact, of all living organisms. What are the effects of aging, especially those which go beyond the biological aspects and effect the social aspects of changing roles, seniority, and treatment of the aged? What was the original human condition before high-tech medical interventions redefined death and dying, before the industrial age changed the nature of the nuclear and extended family? Going back still farther, what can the behavior of chimpanzees tell us about the origins of our responses to the aging of those around us?

Having worked in the field of geriatrics, in a nursing home setting, I have had the opportunity to be involved in the direct care of the elderly. Over a period of time, I have come to accept living one's last years in a nursing home as an eventual "normal" response to the aging process. As a result of this study, I anticipate having an enlarged perspective and an enhanced sensitivity to the psychosocial aspects of aging.

Aging Defined

The Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology (1996) was a helpful source to gain a definition on aging which includes the concepts of life course, seniority, and treatment of the aged. Aging can be measured by common biological content: proportion of the maximum fife span one has lived, performance on a series of physiological tests which index biological age, and patterns of the age­specific risk of mortality. Despite this universal biological content, it is notable that aging takes on a variety of forms, many which show regular associations with aspects of culture. Rather than focusing on age, it may be more appropriate to review the life cy...


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...k, NY: Harper Collins College Publishers

Collier's Encyclopedia. 1983. New York, NY: Macmillan Educational Company

Goodall, Jane. 1990. Through a Window: My 30 Years with Chimpanzees of Gombe. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company

Handbook of North American Indians. 1984. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution
Semour­Smith, Charlotte. 1986. Dictionary of Anthropology. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall and Company

Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology. 1996. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company

Marshall, Loma. 1976. The !Kung of Nyae Nyae. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Dentan, Robert Knox. 1968. The Semai: A Nonviolent People of Malaya. Orlando, FL: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.

Maxwell, Robert J. and Phillip Silverman. 1989. "Geronticide". In The Content of Culture: Studies in Honor of John M. Roberts. New Haven, CN.: HRAF Press


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