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The biomedicalization of aging: dangers and dilemmas

American Sociological Association paper.

Author: Estes, C. L.
Type: Journal Article
Year: 1988


The institution of medicine has become a pervasive force in the conceptualisation, definition, & treatment of many aspects of social life. One area of its growing influence & dominance is the field of aging. The germ theory & the great success attributed to medicine in controlling infectious disease & increasing the lifespan have reinforced the power of the medical model focused on individual organic pathology & physiological etiologies & biomedical interventions. The resulting "biomedicalization of aging": socially constructs old age as a process of decremental physical decline (illness, disability, & death); places aging under the domain & control of biomedicine; assigns medicine responsibility for its treatment & cure; & shapes the nation's research, education, & policy agendas. Two aspects of the phenomenon are important to note: biomedicine itself is a social construction, albeit one that has consistently demonstrated the power to extend the boundaries of its domain considerably; & there is substantial research demonstrating the import of social factors in both the aging process & societal aging. Following a review of recent developments in aging research, training, & policy in the context of the literature on medicalization & demedicalization, social control, & the medical-industrial complex, personal research on the medicalization of services to the elderly is discussed.

Further Details

Accession Number: 1.4.03 keyword changed
Keywords: older, health improvement, policy compliance
Reads: 346