geriatricandpediatric banner

Critical Gerontology

Generally speaking, the term "critical gerontology" can be used to describe a rather broad spectrum of theoretical interests, ranging from constructions and deconstructions of aging to the issue of power and control in contemporary society. What ties these different perspectives together is that all of them, in one form or another, have been critical of "a theoretical self-understanding of gerontology, which is dominated by an idealized concept of natural science as the representative of 'objective' knowledge". In contrast, critical gerontologists argue that the nature of scientific data cannot be separated from the approach, interest, orientation, and other subjective aspects of the researcher. The issues raised have focused primarily on the ideological and socially constructive features of age conceptualizations.

Consider first a cognitive interest in control, which underlies conventional theories of aging. From this point of view (with this tacit interest), social objects and events are believed to be things in their own right, separate from those who experience them. This understanding makes it reasonable to raise questions about the relationship between individuals, on the one hand, and a real, objective world that they encounter, on the other. For example, if one feature of an individual's world is that it is organized around a life span or a life course with distinct stages, cohorts, or points of transition, then one might reasonably ask what sort of impact these "things" have on the characteristics of the individuals who are located within, or proceeding through, them, and how this affects adjustment in old age.