Description: This book is one of a series of three on aging, all in their fifth editions, that reflect the maturity and expansion of research and publication on aging. The companion publications are Handbook of the Biology of Aging and Handbook of the Psychology of Aging. The previous edition was published in 1995.
Purpose: The book provides extensive reviews and critical evaluations of research on the social aspects of aging.
Audience: It is useful for research personnel, graduate students, and professional personnel for "access not only to the rapidly growing volume of literature, but also to the perspectives provided by the integration and interpretations of the findings by experienced and well-informed scholars," (p. xvi). The contributors to this edition are among the world's most distinguished scholars of aging and social sciences.
Features: This edition consists of 25 chapters organized into four parts covering theory and methods, aging and social structure, social factors and social institutions, and aging and social intervention. Although the four organizing parts remain identical to the previous edition, the content of the chapters is substantially different. Consequently, this edition is a companion to, rather than a replacement of, the fourth edition.
Assessment: This is an important addition to the extant knowledge of aging. Not only does this edition provide a historical perspective to the topics, but the contributors shape future knowledge by challenging readers on several levels. One challenge is for social scientists to consider how the generation of knowledge is shaped by their own political, cultural, and biographical heritage. Another is to challenge scholars to reflect on the image of aging presented in research, and ask whether it is one to which they could subscribe for themselves. A final challenge is to broaden the study of aging from a focus on individuals in their micro-worlds to the wider social context. This edition is an amazing contribution to the field.