TitleSome Things I Have Learned About Aging by Studying the Life Course
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsSettersten, RA
JournalInnovation in Aging
Date Published09/2017

“Aging” and the “life course” are distinct but complementary phenomena that inform one another. Building on this insight, this essay conveys some lessons the author has learned about aging by studying the life course. These include that (1) age is a salient dimension of individual identity and social organization; (2) a reconfigured life course brings reconfigured aging; (3) old age is a highly precarious phase of life; (4) difference and inequality are not the same, but both can accumulate over time; (5) aging is gendered; (6) aging is interpersonal, and “independence” is an illusion; (7) “choice” and “responsibility” can be dirty words; (8) much of aging is in the mind—it is imagined and anticipated; and (9) history leaves its footprints on aging, and the future of aging is already here. These lessons culminate in a final insight: that to understand personal aging, gerontologists must look beyond the personal, for much of the relevant action is to be found in social experience.