Evvverybody’s doing it alll the time…
For some, the experience is pleasant, and for others, it’s not.
It’s instinctual, natural, and necessary for human evolution.
You might be wondering what this could possibly be!? There are many things that are ‘instinctual, natural, and necessary for human evolution.’ Eating, for instance, easily falls into this category. As does having sex! But we’re not talking about either of those things. Today we’re talking about aging!
Yes - AGING! Nothing sexual here (although aging can, indeed, be sexual, but we’ll get to that another time).
Recent aging research (also known as “Gerontology”) has begun to help people understand that aging is a lifelong process which begins in the womb, and people are products of their past and present, which creates their future.
You’re probably thinking, “Duh.”
Well, “Yes, duh,” and “No, duh.”
Until the emergence of the Life Course Perspective (which will be discussed in more detail later), social gerontologists, researchers, and academics typically studied aging through one lens, such as the feminist perspective, or looked at aging in either/or terms, like being successful or not, productive or not, and so on.
Recently, however, the study of aging has become more dynamic. There are many theories and perspectives used within the realms of social gerontology, but the one that makes the most sense to me is the life course perspective. The life course perspective began to gain momentum in the 1960s when an academic, Leonard Cain Jr. (1964) published an essay entitled “Life Course and Social Structure.” Then, in 1982, Matilda White Riley created the four central premises of the emerging life course. This is just a basic history lesson, but if you’re the curious type, check her out on what a hospice patient of mine used to call “The Google.” Dr. Glen Elder, the man most widely recognized for the emergence of life course perspective is the guy with the golden ticket whom we will concentrate on. Dr. Elder is the first scholar to importantly define an individual’s life as:
As Bengston, et al. (2009) discuss, Dr. Elder, more than anyone, really, formalized the life course perspective by establishing 5 major principles:
All this explanation simply goes to show that no matter how you twist it, you are always aging/growing/learning constantly and evolving, influencing, and being influenced by your family, experiences, surroundings, thoughts, interactions…everything.
You. Are. Aging.
I just want to make that point super clear, because all too often people dissociate themselves from older adults, thinking they are dissimilar to those over 65. We all dissociate ourselves from other people regardless – a primary reason we have so many issues concerning race, gender expression, class, etc. However, even if you are not a woman, even if you are not considered a minority, whatever you may be, you are aging!
So – what are the take-home points here?
Aging is a lifelong process: You and I, your spouse/partner, child, your friends and parents are all aging at this moment.
Your life now affects your life later (and consequently how to you age): Historical time and place, timing, and human agency all intertwine to affect one’s life.
And lastly, a thought until next time: regardless of age, we all feel the same emotions, desire the same connections and really are…the same. As humans, we are fundamentally similar. What differentiates us are the culturally constructed ideas and definitions that help categorize people.
Until next time, aging friends! If you have any ideas, thoughts or questions about this article, head to our 'Contact' page and send us a message!