Anthropology of Aging

Discipline: Anthropology
Instructor: Savishinsky
Credits: 3
Day: null
Start: 08:00
End: 09:15
Field Work: Day 4 | Spain Download Syllabus

Aging is a universal human experience, but human longevity, the rhythms of the life-course, and the qualities of later life, vary enormously from one culture to another. This course explores that diversity through readings, field trips, discussions, debates, films and exercises focused on the peoples of North Africa, the Middle East, Southern and Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean. We will consider the “graying” of national and global populations in the Bahamas and throughout the modern world; the traditional power of older men and women in Spain and Italy; rites of passage across the lifespan in the USA and other countries; the nature of widowhood in Greece; the idea of a “good death” in Ireland; factors enhancing life expectancy and health in Croatia and Abkhasia; the place of spirituality and authority among elders in Turkey and the Near East; the role of poetry and creativity among older people in Egypt, Europe and Asia; the impact of modernization on the aged, their families and government policies in North Africa, Uganda, the Americas and Southeast Asia; and the promises and perils of retirement, pension systems, and caregiving in developing and post-industrial societies. In light of our cultural encounters in the Mediterranean during the voyage, students will also be asked to reflect on their own families’ experiences with aging and the elderly; to envision their own ideal later life; and to contemplate the social and policy changes that could help or hinder their realization of “a good old age.”


Special Requirements:

An introductory course in Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology or Gerontology

Field Work

Country: Spain
Day: 4

This field lab features presentations by professors Jennie Wallace and Martin Tolhurst, retired British educators and now residents of Spain, who have studied and personally experienced the "graying" of modern Europe in several of that continent's countries. Through questions and conversation, students will have a chance to ask and learn about: national differences in pension policies; access to medical care and continuing education for older people; support systems for elders and their families; and the reasons why Spain itself has become such an attractive retirement destination for other Europeans. Students are invited to share lunch with Professors Wallace and Tolhurst, provide them with a tour of the ship, and then move with them onto the streets of the Ramblas and its vicinity to interact with Spanish elders and find out from them about their personal experience of aging in Catalonia.