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The Gerontologist 43:787-796 (2003)
© 2003 The Gerontological Society of America

Self, Society, and the "New Gerontology"

Martha B. Holstein, PhD1, and Meredith Minkler, DrPH2

1 Department of Religious Studies, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.
2 School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Martha B. Holstein, 360 W. Wellington, 16A, Chicago, IL 60657. E-mail: marthaholstein{at}

The "new gerontology," built on the concept of successful aging, sets forth the preconditions for and the end product of the process of aging successfully. Focused on health and active participation in life, it vests largely within individuals the power to achieve this normatively desirable state. While acknowledging the contributions of the scientific base for Rowe and Kahn's successful aging model, we emphasize the need for a more careful examination of the model itself. Using critical gerontology as a primary filter, we critique this normative vision by focusing on its unarticulated (and perhaps unexplored) values, assumptions, and consequences. We argue that these unexamined features may further harm older people, particularly older women, the poor, and people of color who are already marginalized. We conclude by suggesting forms of resistance to this univocal standard.

Key Words: Critical gerontology • Successful aging • Feminist philosophy

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Copyright © 2003 by The Gerontological Society of America.