Growing Old in America

Growing Old in America : Lectures

4.23 (13 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Hardback
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Product details

  • Hardback | 252 pages
  • 130 x 210mm
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 38tabs.
  • 0195021592
  • 9780195021592

Review Text

From the Puritan veneration of the Elders to gerontophobia - contempt for the gaffer, fogey, geezer, and fuddy-duddy - Fischer, a resourceful and incisive social historian, traces America's changing attitudes toward the aged. In what amounts to a radical departure from prevailing sociological wisdom, Fischer disputes the notion that industrialization, "modernization," or the breakup of the nuclear family led to the disesteem and isolation of the old. Rather, he argues that a sea-change came much earlier; the period 1770-1820 which marked the end of the ancien regime also ushered in the end of the regime des anciens. This is more than clever word play; as egalitarian ideas supplanted hierarchical conceptions of social order, the authority of the "greybeards" ended. His evidence is gathered from diverse sources: dress styles which changed to flatter and accent youth; the introduction of mandatory retirement statutes; the dictionary's "enlarged vocabulary of abuse" for the old. Fischer follows the intensification of gerontophobia and the accelerating cult of youth through 19th-century literature to the present, pinpointing the years around 1910 as the time when old age became recognized as a "social problem." The latter parts of the book are more narrowly focused on the economic and fiscal difficulties of providing for a population in which the proportion of old people continues to grow. Fischer even launches his own scheme of "national inheritance" to solve the Social Security mess. This is a maverick proposal, interesting, but not of a piece with the rest. A book that genuinely breaks new ground; though the study of childhood is well established, the study of aging is still in its infancy. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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13 ratings
4.23 out of 5 stars
5 31% (4)
4 62% (8)
3 8% (1)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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