Chapter 27: Sociocultural Perspectives on Ageing Bodies
Sociocultural perspectives on ageing bodies All research in gerontology begins with the body. In both its physical and social aspects, the body is the foundational ground of gerontological knowledge and its associated health and service professions. As Mike Hepworth remarks, ‘if the body did not age there would literally be no gerontological story to write or read’ (2000: 9). Historically, the body became the material resource for scientific discovery about old age. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, medical geriatricians such as Jean-Martin Charcot, Elie Metchnikoff, and Ignatz Nascher transformed the aged body into a separable senile form of life encompassing new scientific truths about ageing. As Charcot stated in the introduction to his seminal work, Clinical Lectures on the Diseases of Old Age , ‘The new physiology absolutely refuses to look upon life as a mysterious and supernatural influence which acts as its caprice dictates’, but rather, ...