Topic outline

  • Course Description

    This course offers a multi-disciplinary investigation of aging as a social, historical and personal process. What does it mean to grow old in a culture that celebrates youth and independence? How have the values and practices associated with aging changed over time? How do social policies and social institutions define and shape old age? How can the experiences of different elderly populations bring to light inequalities of race, ethnicity, class and gender and how does ageism intersect with other forms of oppression?  How have particular individuals navigated the complexities and challenges of aging?


    In exploring these questions, the course opens up central issues and methods in the Social Sciences and Humanities, and offers an opportunity to integrate theory and practice.  All students will spend 2 to 3 hours per week working with a local organization that provides care for older adults. Students will also learn and apply methods of oral history.  The class will meet on Tuesdays, with only an occasional Friday meeting.  The schedule is designed to create time and space for community engagement.


    In a society that will age rapidly over the next three decades, critically informed engagement with aging is vital for students anticipating work in the social service and health fields, family members who will care for aging parents and grandparents, and citizens who will be called on to consider the needs of an aging population. Wherever we are in the life course, the topic of aging invites us to consider fundamental questions of what we value and how we care for one another.


    • Assignments and Evaluation



      Reading and Community Engagement Journal

      The journals will serve two purposes:students will write short responses to questions about the assigned reading and they will also reflect on their experiences working in the community, making links between the academic content of the course and their community engagement.



      Life Review/Life Reminiscence

      Students will conduct a life review or series of reminiscences with an older individual.This project will involve three hours of interview time and result in the making of something to present the interview subject that reflects his/her life.


      Final Project


      Students will complete a project of their own choosing related to the themes and issues of the course.It might be an oral history project, an ethnographic study, a video documentary, a research paper, or some other form of research and expression. Students taking the course for reduced credit will not do a final project.


      • First Class

        F 9/1

        • T 9/5 Ageism

          Read the three articles below on the subject of ageism.  Start your electronic reading journals.  Write an approximately one page entry for Tuesday that applies some of the language and insights from the reading to an example of ageism of your choosing. 

          • F 9/8 Historical Perspectives on Aging

            • Gawande, Being Mortal

              T 9/12, Being Mortal Chapters 1-3

              T 9/19  Being Mortal, Chapters 4 and 5