The University of Arizona

Defining Aging and The Aged: Cultural and Social Constructions of Elders in the U.S.

Laura Talarsky


This paper presents a critical analysis of the cultural and social constructions of aging and the aged which pervade public discourse around the growing population of elders in the U.S. Elders are socially 'othered' through processes of medicalization and categorization as an "at risk" group. Furthermore, elders are culturally constructed as unproductive and overconsumptive collective resources. As elders become increasingly central in social and political discourse surrounding health care and the division of resources, these culturally and socially constructed stereotypes have a real impact on social identity and policy decisions. The paper concludes with a discussion of the role of anthropology in contributing a critical perspective to the study of elders.


Elders, cultural and social constructions, medicalization, stigma and identity, public discourse, critical perspectives

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