Handbook of Communication and Aging Research

Handbook of Communication and Aging Research

Handbook of Communication and Aging Research

Handbook of Communication and Aging Research

Synopsis

This second edition of the Handbook of Communication and Aging Research captures the ever-changing and expanding domain of aging research. Since it was first recognized that there is more to social aging than demography, gerontology has needed a communication perspective. Like the first edition, this handbook sets out to demonstrate that aging is not only an individual process but an interactive one. The study of communication can lead to an understanding of what it means to grow old. We may age physiologically and chronologically, but our social aging--how we behave as social actors toward others, and even how we align ourselves with or come to understand the signs of difference or change as we age--are phenomena achieved primarily through communication experiences. Synthesizing the vast amount of research that has been published on communication and aging in numerous international outlets over the last three decades, the book's contributors include scholars from North America and the United Kingdom who are active researchers in the perspectives covered in their particular chapter. Many of the chapters work to deny earlier images of aging as involving normative decrement to provide a picture of aging as a process of development involving positive choices and providing new opportunities. A recuring theme in many chapters is that of the heterogeneity of the group of people who are variously categorized as older, aged, elderly, or over 65. The contributors review the literature analytically, in a way that reveals not only current theoretical and methodological approaches to communication and aging research but also sets the future agenda. This handbook will be of great interest to scholars and researchers in gerontology, developmental psychology, and communication, and, in this updated edition, will continue to play a key role in the study of communication and aging.

Excerpt

In the first edition of the Handbook of Communication and Aging Research, we wrote that a simultaneous growth in the discipline of communication and in the population of older individuals across the world has produced an explosion of research investigating various aspects of communication and aging. This has taken place against a backdrop of traditional gerontology, which has for the most part been heavily influenced by theories in mainstream biology, psychology, sociology, and medicine, and has focused on the demography, personality, use of social services, uptake of and satisfaction with health care, and intergenerational attitudes. The field of social gerontology is relatively new, innovative, and prolific, but still not well organized. Perhaps because of this, the centrality of communication in the studies of aging is not yet well established. Yet, communication and aging is at the forefront of the new wave of gerontology, giving priority to aging as one of the range of issues currently being scrutinized by the social sciences. Since the publication of the first handbook nearly 10 years ago, the study of aging by social gerontologists has become more focused, more theoretically diverse, and more methodologically interesting. This second edition of the Handbook of Communication and Aging Research is our attempt to capture this ever-changing and expanding domain of research. Five new chapters have been added, numerous chapters have received major revision, and two classic chapters appear with only slight modification.

Since it was first recognized that there is more to social aging than demography, gerontology has needed a communication perspective. Much like the first edition of the handbook, the second edition sets out to demonstrate that aging is not only (or not even in the main) an individual but an interactive process. It is the study of communication that can lead us to understand what it means to grow old. It is the social imagery of aging and the way in which aging is culturally constituted and constructed that gives us access to social reality (see Berger & Luckman, 1966; Potter & Wetherell, 1987). We may age physiologically and, of course, chronologically, but our social aging—how we behave, as social actors, toward others, and even how we align ourselves with or come to understand the signs of difference or change as we age—are phenomena achieved primarily through communication experiences. For Shotter and Gergen (1989), “cultural texts furnish their inhabitants with the resources for the formation of selves; they lay out an array of enabling potentials, while simultaneously establishing a set of constraining boundaries beyond which selves cannot easily be made” (p. ix).

The means by which we, as social actors, provide or constrain ways of being old, and in turn can come to understand aging in others as well as in ourselves, is through both verbal and nonverbal communication practices. Communicative processes define . . .

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