Aging and Time

Multidisciplinary Perspectives


The aim of Aging and Time is to revitalize the debate about the concepts of time implicit in the study of aging. The many problems related to aging and the aged put an enormous pressure on the gerontological community to come up with practical applications and solutions. But in considering research findings, we must keep in mind the basic assumptions that shape and influence even the most obvious statements about aging. In this multidisciplinary volume, the contributors take on the important task of exploring real issues concerning temporal concepts and approaches to aging: the concepts of time that are used in thinking about aging determine to a large extent the way aging is approached.

Most studies of aging still use a chronological approach to define populations for research purposes (that is, to determine which “aged” should be studied) and to establish how people’s characteristics (social, economic, health, and so forth) change as a function of age. This approach may lead to an accumulation of data, but does not in itself lead to explanatory knowledge. The step from chronological time to chronological age should be taken cautiously if we want to consider aging processes seriously, especially because chronological age is widely used in contemporary societies as a basis for regulating all kinds of processes, with many consequences for individuals. The arguments presented here do not deny the finitude of human life, nor do they deny that “aging” can be observed in any individual if we compare the characteristics of that person over a relatively long period. The question is how to approach these themes to get a better understanding. To achieve this, we need to understand the specific significance and relativity of chronological time and uncover unfounded deductions about time in relation to aging.

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In praise of

Aging and Time brings in a new phase in research and study of aging. It opens windows through which we can view the complexity and importance of the phenomena of aging. The book echoes the idea that age doesn’t cause anything. Time and age are convenient indexes that help in organizing both research data and personal information. Rational explanations require the replacement of age with causal variables that determine the outcomes of phenomena that are initially linked to chronological age. The excellent scholarship in this book will lead to new views of the complexity of aging and its understanding.”
Jim Birren, USA

“This important volume challenges gerontologists’ self-understanding as ‘experts’ by revealing false assumptions and neglected complexities in the study of aging and time. Ranging from the humanities to the social and natural sciences, the primarily European authors of Aging and Time go to the heart of epistemological and methodological issues which American gerontologists neglect at our own peril. . . . Essential reading for serious students of foundational questions in gerontology.”
Thomas R. Cole, Ph.D. Director, McGovern Center for Health, Humanities and the Human Spirit, University of Texas-Houston School of Medicine, USA

“Elusive as time and temporality may be, an understanding of their dynamic is implicit to how one approaches the study of aging processes. There is more to time than what shows on the clock, or on the calendar and the authors assembled here provide a masterful peek into its various meanings and how those meanings color what we think we know about aging. Their explorations range from the physical and biological to psychological processes and experiential dimensions. In the aggregate they cover the terrain and stake-out the issues in a cogent and provocative manner. Readers will quickly appreciate the richness of the perspectives provided, the scholarship that is readily apparent.”
Jon Hendricks, Dean University Honors College, Oregon State University, USA

About the editors

Jan Baars, Ph.D., studied sociology and philosophy in Amsterdam and is Professor of Interpretive Gerontology at the University for Humanist Studies in Utrecht and Professor of Philosophy of the Social Sciences and the Humanities at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. He has published and (co-)edited a dozen books and published many articles on philosophical and gerontological subjects, in English, German, French, Finnish, and Dutch. His main interests are the theoretical and practical presuppositions in approaches to aging, especially concepts of time and temporality. Dr. Baars has lectured at many universities in Europe, the United States, South Africa and Japan and is co-editor of Aging, Globalization and Inequality: The New Critical Gerontology (Baywood, 2006).

Henk Visser, Ph.D., became Emeritus Professor at the University Maastricht in 2005. In his professional life he taught mathematics, analytic philosophy, philosophy of the information sciences, and philosophy of science. His systematic research focused on productive problem solving; his historical research concerned the development of scientific philosophy and scientific humanism. One of his more recent works is Het Forumwaarmerk van Wetenschap (The Forum Theory of Scientific Truth), written with the psychologist A. D. de Groot. Since 1998 Dr. Visser has been president of the Evert Willem Beth Foundation in Amsterdam.

Intended audience

Students and professors of the social sciences, humanities, and aging, including the methodology of aging studies; professionals working in the field of aging, including sociologists, psychologists, and biologists.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction Chronological Time and Chronological Age: Problems of Temporal Diversity – Jan Baars
  • A Triple Temporality of Aging: Chronological Measurement, Personal Experience, and Narrative Articulation – Jan Baars
  • Psychological Time: Empirical Evidence, Theories, and Age-Related Effects – Elke van der Meer
  • Temporal References in the Construction of Self-Identity: A Life-Span Approach – Freya Dittman-Kohli
  • The Concept of Event Time in the Study of Adult Development – K. Warner Schaie
  • Time and Aging: A Physicist’s Look at Gerontology – Jos Uffink
  • Biological Time as an Emergent Property – F. Eugene Yates
  • Whence an Emergence of Biological Time? – Jos Uffink
  • Further Conjectures on the Nature of Time in Living Systems: Causes of Senescence Addendum – F. Eugene Yates
  • The Integration Problem: Toward Multilevel Explanations – Henk Visser
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