Let's face it: almost everyone fears growing older. We worry about losing our looks, our health, our jobs, our self-esteem--and being supplanted in work and love by younger people. It feels like the natural, inevitable consequence of the passing years, But what if it's not? What if nearly everything that we think of as the "natural" process of aging is anything but?
In "Agewise," renowned cultural critic Margaret Morganroth Gullette reveals that much of what we dread about aging is actually the result of "ageism"--which we can, and should, battle as strongly as we do racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. Drawing on provocative and under-reported evidence from biomedicine, literature, economics, and personal stories, Gullette probes the ageism thatdrives discontent with our bodies, our selves, and our accomplishments--and makes us easy prey for marketers who want to sell us an illusory vision of youthful perfection. Even worse, rampant ageism causes society to discount, and at times completely discard, the wisdom and experience acquired by people over the course of adulthood. The costs--both collective and personal--of this culture of decline are almost incalculable, diminishing our workforce, robbing younger people of hope for a decent later life, and eroding the satisfactions and sense of productivity that should animate our later years.
Once we open our eyes to the pervasiveness of ageism, however, we can begin to fight it--and Gullette lays out ambitious plans for the whole life course, from teaching children anti-ageism to fortifying the social safety nets, and thus finally making possible the real pleasures and opportunities promised by the new longevity. A bracing, controversial call to arms, "Agewise" will surprise, enlighten, and, perhaps most important, bring hope to readers of all ages.
Margaret Morganroth Gullette is the author of three previous books, including Aged by Culture, which was chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by the Christian Science Monitor, and Declining to Decline.
"Important social criticism from a prominent scholar." (Publishers Weekly) "A must-read for anyone expecting to grow old in this culture-most of us, one hopes. Of particular interest are Gullette's [chapters] on cosmetic surgery, late-life sexuality, memory loss, and the suicide of the feminist scholar Carolyn Heilbrun.... Gullette coined the term 'age studies,' that is, a critical perspective on the entire life-course, and Agewise demonstrates that she is a master practitioner of the discipline. She labels ignorance of old age 'a social epidemic.' This bias, she says, can be remedied not just by living, which is slow and uncertain, but by raising one's consciousness." (Women's Review of Books) "Gullette has the uncanny ability to invite the reader to step close to aging bodies and souls and, then, remind us that we cannot slide into another's life course; can never wrap ourselves in their experience of aging. It is this insight and her keen ability to turn a phrase that makes Agewise both excellent scholarship and a deeply readable and provoking book." (Health) "An instant classic.... Brilliant.... It will instantly transform the way people think about aging and ageism." (Times Higher Education)"