Thinking about Dementia: Culture, Loss, and the Anthropology of Senility

By Annette Leibing; Lawrence Cohen | Go to book overview

5
The Biomedical Deconstruction
of Senility and the Persistent
Stigmatization of Old Age
in the United States

JESSE F. BALLENGER

Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childish-
ness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
—Shakespeare, As You Like It

This oft-quoted characterization of the seventh and final stage of a person's life has usually been taken as a commonplace of old age: this period has always been stigmatized. In particular, the mental losses associated with age, "second childishness and mere oblivion," have been among the most deeply stigmatized conditions. In its frightening totality—effacing the memories and abilities that are widely seen as the very essence of personhood—senile dementia seems to taint the entire experience of aging. In its relentless inevitability, deeply associated with aging and the mere passage of time, it makes a mockery of the achievement of longevity.

But if senility has always been stigmatized, it has not always been stigmatized in the same way. In this chapter, I will discuss some of the complexities of the stigmatization of senility in the United States since World War II. In doing so, I intend to challenge the view that the causes of stigma are ignorance and mystification and that the remedy, therefore, is scientific progress and education. Stigma is the product not simply of ignorance but of deeply felt anxieties about the coherence and stability of the self. To be sure, scientific progress and education remain important for a variety of reasons, but they will not address the sorts of anxieties that produce stigma.

After World War II a diverse array of professionals in the emerging field of

-106-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Thinking about Dementia: Culture, Loss, and the Anthropology of Senility
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 300

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.