COOL CLASSES: “Old Age in the Modern Age”

A history and anthropology course, taught by the librarian of the College, that provides a survey on the history of aging in the United States from the 17th through the 20th centuries.

Class name: “Old Age in the Modern Age”

Taught by: Librarian of the College Terry Snyder

Here’s what Snyder has to say about the course:

If we’re lucky, we all age. We want to “get old,” but societal messages suggest that no one really seems to be in a rush to get there.  What does that mean from individual and collective perspectives?

This course provides a survey on the history of aging in the United States from the 17th through the 20th centuries. The class examines broad considerations of aging through lenses of historical, kinship, community, and care perspectives. It begins with the inventions of age, starting with childhood, adolescence and middle age/mid-life. We look at shifting theories and attitudes on what it means to be elderly or aged. The impact or roles of class, race, ethnicity, and religion are considered throughout the course. We explore the influence of industrialization, retirement, and experience in shaping ideas of age and the lived experience. Finally, we examine these ideas on aging through a close reading of historical case studies.

The class is structured so that students consider broad and complex issues around what has become a seemingly simple categorizing of people. We study the past to understand our present, in order to think critically and make informed decisions about the future. I want students to use the combined practices of history and anthropology to understand this particular dimension of our past and its impact on the present.

The class will work in groups, and collectively, on a traveling exhibition project for the Simpson House, a retirement and continuing care community in West Philadelphia. The exhibition will focus on the 150-year history of Simpson House and will be featured as part of the residential community’s anniversary events in 2015.

This course is cross-listed in anthropology and history. See what other courses those departments are offering this semester.

Image via the Library of Congress.

Cool Classes is a recurring series on the Haverblog that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford College experience.