The aging population in Western industrial and postindustrial nations is among the chief demographic trends of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. By 2050, the United Nations predicts one of every five individuals across the globe will be over sixty-five. In the 1930s and 1940s, scientists in the United States, aware of and concerned about this demographic upheaval, offered their own solutions to the “problem of old age.” This article examines how these scientists sought first to offer a holistic, rather than chronological, definition of old age, and then to transform the elderly from a problem to a social asset. Their initial interdisciplinary approach would quickly give way to a postwar climate bent on treating old age as a physical pathology with a medical solution.


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pp. 797-822
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