5

Positioning Gerontology in an Ageist World

Bill Bytheway

There is a growing interest in the history of gerontology and an increasing appreciation that this history is connected to much broader social, political, and cultural trends (Katz, 1996; Phillipson, 1998). Despite the fact that gerontology is a comparatively new discipline, there is much to be learned from the study of how people and organizations have established the discipline and endeavored to position it, both in relation to other disciplines and in the wider world.

On the face of it, gerontology is an academic discipline, characterized by studying and learning, teaching and research. It is represented by a literature, by individuals identifying themselves as gerontologists, and by a variety of organizations promoting its development. For example, the objectives of the International Association of Gerontology include the promotion of (1) gerontological research in the biological, medical, behavioral, and social fields, (2) training in the fields of aging, and (3) the interests of gerontological organizations. It is notable that these objectives do not include any reference to particular age groups (such

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