Contesting Aging and Loss

Contesting Aging and Loss

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Edited by Janice E. Graham and Peter H. Stephenson
University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division © 2010
World Rights
224 Pages
ISBN 9781442601000
Published Apr 2010
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ISBN 9781442600898
Published Apr 2010
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442604100
Published Apr 2010
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Disease and death are a part of life, but so too is being well. The lively voices found in this book are not shy about stating the ways in which the widely held notion that they are in decline has been a far larger problem than many other features of their lives. For students, scholars, and policy makers, the message is to attend to these voices, and to design and build better programs that address the social determinants of healthy aging and social inclusion throughout the life course.

Janice E. Graham is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Director of the Qualitative Research Commons & Studio (QuRCS) in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Peter H. Stephenson is a Michael Smith Foundation Research Associate at the Centre on Aging, Professor of Anthropology, and Director of the School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, British Columbia.


Introduction: The Experience of Loss and the Range of Contestation, Janice E. Graham and Peter H. Stephenson

Part I. Overview: Paradigms and Perspectives

1. Age and Time: Contesting the Paradigm of Loss in the Age of Novelty, Peter H. Stephenson

Part II. Local Understanding and Knowledge about Aging: How Seniors See It

2. Losing and Gaining: About Growing Old "Successfully" in the Netherlands, Margaret von Faber and Sjaak van der Geest

3. Empowering Knowledge and Practices of Namaqualand Elders, Robin Oakley

4. La Buona Vecchiaia: Aging and Well-Being among Italian Canadians, Sam Migliore and Margaret Dorazio-Migliore

Part III. Illness, Indignity, and Stigmatization

5. Drunks, Bums, and Deadbeats? A Biographical Perspective on Gender, Aging, and the Inequalities of Men, Cherry Russell

6. Dignity and Loss: Implications for Seniors' Health in Hospitalization Narratives, Christina Holmes and Peter H. Stephenson

Part IV. Embodiments and Disembodiments

7. Embodied Selfhood: Ethnographic Reflections, Performing Ethnography, and Humanizing Dementia Care, Pia C. Kontos

8. The Science, Politics, and Everyday Life of Recognizing Effective Treatments for Dementia, Janice E. Graham

Part V. Practices and Policies

9. "Them" are "Us": Building Appropriate Policies from Fieldwork to Practice, Janice E. Graham

Appendix: Important Web Resources for Students and Researchers

Notes on Contributors


Whether it be in academic research, the mass media, or corporate advertising, aging is too often presented with a profound overemphasis on real and imagined losses that, in turn, can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Contesting Aging and Loss provides a most welcome non-pharmacological antidote, and redresses the balance beautifully.

Steven Sabat, Georgetown University

Many books are skimmed once and then set aside. This one is to be devoured over and over again. Contesting Aging and Loss provides a richness of thought for the experienced policy maker, academic, and the up-and-coming student concerned with the challenging concepts of loss and aging, and their meanings to us personally, and to the communities in which we live.

Jean-Francois Kozak, Centre for Healthy Aging, Providence Health Care, Vancouver

This volume invites readers to re-imagine the losses of aging by listening to the views of elders themselves.... Researchers, students of aging, and policy makers should find this work most enlightening.

Athena McLean, Central Michigan University, author of The Person in Dementia

Contesting Aging and Loss is a superb example of critical gerontology. This beautifully written, though disturbing, narrative reveals the dark side of our enlightened views of healthy and successful aging. A must-read for all who believe they are acting in the best interests of older adults.

Norah Keating, Chair, North American Region, International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics

Graham and Stephenson's innovative and powerful book deconstructs contemporary developments in understanding aging and loss. Rather than reinforce a convention of fatalistic language associated with loss of roles, or loss of people or loss of life, this book dramatically deconstructs long-held assumptions through consistent use of insights from Critical Gerontology. This is a breath of fresh air. The book is also very well written and the material is well packaged into a very detailed and thorough exposition.

Ageing & Society

This book represents a welcome contribution to the growing Canadian literature critiquing the hegemony of the decline and loss paradigm that unfortunately underpins most discussions of aging, whether those discussions are scholarly or popular.

Canadian Journal on Aging

In Contesting Aging and Loss, readers of medical anthropology and gerontology will find a rich array of academically solid case studies set in a framework of advocacy and social policy. The book is well suited for use in even undergraduate teaching, for instance in courses on the anthropology of aging or of the life course, medical anthropology, or kinship, but I hope that it also will stimulate similar research that combines an open-ended inquiry into the lives of elders with a commitment to freedom and well-being on their own terms.

Medical Anthropology Quarterly