The Changing Meaning of Aging
Harry R. Moody
EDITORS' INTRODUCTION Moody explores the meaning that is attributed to aging by the people who speak for our society. Drawing on best-seller lists of popular and professional books, Moody reviews for us the changing opinions of the postwar years. In the years immediately following World War II, when the focus of the nation was on a return to normalcy, the aged were seen as a group vulnerable to disability and as a social problem. But then the historical situation changed. In the late sixties and early seventies the institutions of the society came into question. It was a time of, in Moody's terms, public pessimism and private optimism. Community became less important than self-realization. In the public mind the aged were an interest group whose claims were competitive with the claims of other interest groups, including children. But then, in another shift, selfrealization came to be defined in less material terms. New models appeared for those in later life that emphasized their potential for continued development and activity. A good many books celebrated the vitality of aged individuals who directed enterprises, traveled, wrote, and painted. Some authors recommended spiritual journeying. This seems to be where we now are.
After telling this story Moody steps back and asks why we have not settled on a stable image of aging and the aged. His answer, it would seem, is that aging has no