Panel no. 63 - Coming of (Old) Age on Earth: Imagining Our Aging Future


Title Dr First name Jason Last name Danely
Institution Oxford Brookes University City Oxford Country GB


Title Prof First name Erika Last name Takahashi
Institution name Chiba Univeristy City Chiba Country JP


Panel title

Coming of (Old) Age on Earth: Imagining Our Aging Future

Panel abstract

Every step into the future is a new moment of growing older both as individuals and as a human population: by 2050, the number of people aged 80 years or older will reach 425 million, quadruple what it was at the turn of the century. Just as feminism and anti-racism constituted the major political movements of the late 20th and early 21st century, ageism, and its intersections with other movements will shape political resistance in the coming decades. The political potential of old age has been largely silenced by fixing it to notions of an obsolete or nostalgic past, while the future belongs to youth. This panel asks how anthropology can challenge this model of aging and how older adults contribute to the future of life on earth, not as an obsolete surplus population, but as models of enduring commitment shaping new forms of the social life course. Half a century after Margaret Mead's typology of pre- and post-figurative societies defined the concept of a generation gap, few anthropologists have brought her ideas into conversation with contemporary theory. The need for cultural and moral wisdom of elders remains more important than ever to counter-balance a future defined merely by a fetishization of the "new". What ethnographic material (usually based on present practice) could be of use to shape the future? The next generation of age-inclusive societies will need to undergo radical cultural changes that affect the ways people live and work, care for each other, and participate in political life.

IUAES Commission

IUAES Commission on Aging and the Aged