A society is noted for its treatment of those on the peripheries; the care of the elderly often slips quickly into utilitarian categories that relegate the value of human life to GDP.

"This semester, eight of my students spend three hours a week sitting with elders in a long-term care home. They don’t know if the elders, in their words, “are really living or just waiting to die.” They don’t know if the medicine, which seems to help the elders’ bodies, diminishes their minds. And they don’t know if this state of oldness is something to strive for or to do everything in their power to avoid. Old age, scholars have come to understand, “is a season without a purpose.” With meager exceptions, there are few attempts to endow this period of life with communal value. In its stead, the driving narrative of aging is survival and subsistence. The props of this narrative are pharmaceuticals and nursing care. This development can be traced, in part, to the way research into aging has—and has not—been funded.

"In the 1930s and 1940s, the philanthropic sector in the United States sought an alternative approach to aging. The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation funded research that joined a humanistic desire to find value in old age with the medical capacity to describe what healthy aging could actually look like. For the Macy Foundation, old age was not a set of ailments to be eradicated. Rather, from the 1930s on, the Foundation funded scientists and physicians dedicated to returning elders to their positions as respected members of society. In the 1940s, concerned about the financial future of multidisciplinary aging research, and seduced by the capabilities of the expanding National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Foundation decided to sponsor a gerontologist to join the NIH. At the time, they believed that the research arm of the federal government was the appropriate home for holistic scientific research in aging. They were wrong."--Tamara Mann Tweel, HistPhil