Aging

The biological process of growing older, human aging is almost always accompanied by limitations in physical capacities and, in many cases, diminution of mental acuity. In addition, aging is, like disability, both a biological and a cultural phenomenon that is inflected decisively by the social, legal, medical, statistical, and experiential meanings given to it. For example, old age may be defined by a society in chronological terms (in the United States, ages sixty-two and sixty-five mark eligibility for Social Security) and individually in psychological terms (someone may be seventy-five years old and “feel” fifty). In the United States and many other industrialized nations, aging, as Susan Wendell (1999, 133) has written, is disabling. Aging is invoked rhetorically—at times ominously—as a pressing reason why disability should be of crucial interest to all of us (we are all getting older, we will all be disabled eventually), thereby inadvertently reinforcing the damaging and …

This essay may be found on page 33 of the printed volume.

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