Gerontological autism: terms of accountability in the cultural study of the category of the Fourth Age
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 June 2011
This paper poses an epistemological challenge to students and researchers of old age. It argues that people in deep old age are a testimony to the failure to generate a language by which to comprehend extra-cultural phenomena, which aborts a meaningful dialogue between researchers and subjects. The arguments put forward are based on an analysis of the unique position of the very old as an ultimate, unconstructable ‘other’, as they appear in the relevant anthropological discourse, and maintains that cultural standing of that category is anchored in a symbolic and existential space that prevents communication with its inhabitants. The social processes that lead to this state of absent translation and a deadlock of interpretation are analysed by using examples a longitudinal study of the oldest old conducted by the Herczeg Institute on Aging in Israel. An alternative option for a new conceptual articulation of ways of understanding ageing is proposed; one that is free of conventional but ineffectual paradigms.
- Ageing & Society , Volume 31 , Issue 7: Rethinking Theoretical and Methodological Issues in Intergenerational Family Relations Research , October 2011 , pp. 1125 - 1140
- Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011