Human aging, finite lives and the idealization of clocks

Aging and time are interconnected because aging is basically living seen in a temporal perspective. This makes ‘time’ an important concept in trying to explain aging. However, throughout modernity time has increasingly been identified as clock time: perfectly fit to measure ‘age’ as time since birth but failing to explain ‘age’ as an indicator of aging processes and even less adequate to grasp the lived time of human beings. Moreover, the clock as a cultural idol of instrumentalist perfection has led to approaching human aging in terms of maintenance and repair, inspiring a neglect and depreciation of human vulnerability. The instrumentalist culture of late modern society, including its health cure system, has difficulties to relate to the elusive but inevitable limitations of finite life. This tendency is supported by outspoken approaches in biogerontology indulging in perspectives of infinite human lives; a message that is eagerly consumed by the mass media. Moreover, as most people can be expected to survive into old age, thinking about finitude is easily postponed and reserved for those who are ‘really old’. Instead of reducing aging to the opposite or mere continuation of vital adulthood, it should be seen as something with a potentially broad and deep significance: a process of learning to live a finite life.

(from Biogerontology, 2017)

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