Category Archives: Uncategorized

Members please vote on revisions AAGE bylaws soon!

Proposed changes to the existing bylaws have been made in order to comply with federal requirements for 501C-3 status. We need approval from a majority of our members. If you did not receive an email in November with a link to the ballot for approval of the revisions to the bylaws and a copy of the bylaws, please contact Rebecca Berman at as soon as possible!

Thank you for your time and continued support.

How Anthropology & Aging became Open-Access: some thoughts on transitions and trajectories

Screenshot 2014-09-02 09.56.19.pngLink to the new Anthropology & Aging website here

On days like today, I will most likely spend several hours at the computer, mostly reading. When I have a moment away from other work, I will open some links to articles that google scholar sent me, or scroll through the updates on blogs I follow, and spend twenty minutes here, an hour there, filling up with ideas and images that often find their way into my lectures or a presentations.

If you are like me, you expect to be able to access important news, thoughtful essays, and even high-quality academic articles instantly and effortlessly as your curiosity leads you. I expect my students to be able to do the same when they are writing papers or considering research projects (sometimes we do this together as we brainstorm). With my academic affiliation I can access a lot more than most people, but even then, I always manage to find dead-ends, blocked by some pesky paywall. In these cases I will usually do what my students do, take down the citation for another time, and wander back to the free stuff.

And why not? Lately the free stuff, not only in anthropology, but in aging studies as well, has been really top notch. It may have once been the case that digital journals lacked the clout and the credentials to be taken seriously, but open-access sites like Anthropology of This Century and HAU: Journal of Contemporary Ethnography not only have contributors and editorial boards that include some of the most prominent anthropologists in the world, but they have embraced the potential of new media, creating attractive, interactive formats with unique content. (I have included links to examples of open-access digital journals in anthropology and aging studies below) The scholarly digital publishing wave is exciting, and as a small, non-profit run, niche publication like our journal, it allows us to get our work out into the world and have a greater impact on both the field of aging studies, and on the lives of older adults.
Continue reading

Election for Treasurer

The Elections for Treasurer of AAGE will be open as of Monday July 13th. A single candidate, Jean J. Schensul, Ph.D., is running unopposed. You will receive an email with a link to a ballot. Please review the candidate’s bio and statement (below) and submit your vote by July 25th.

Personal Statement:
Jean J. Schensul, Ph.D. (Minnesota 1974).
Senior Scientist and Founding Director, Institute for Community Research, Hartford, Ct.(1987-2004
Affiliations with University of Connecticut Health Center and Yale University.

As a medical educational anthropologist, I have been committed to research and collaborative education and advocacy efforts related to health of older adults for many years. As founding Director of the Institute for Community Research (1987-2004) and conducting my own research program as Senior Scientist since 2005, I have focused my research career on collaborative research to address health disparities in vulnerable populations. I have been the PI or co-investigator for over 25 NIH-supported studies and supplements, and for a number of federal and private foundation studies. My work has cut across the developmental spectrum with emphasis on substance abuse basic and prevention research and aging, I have worked on issues of aging in diverse and minority communities since 1980 and from 1987 – 1997 was responsible for over sight of our regional area agency on aging. In recent years I have been PI on three NIH grants addressing the health of older adults including one on HIV exposure, three on older adult oral health (one pending final paperwork), a fourth on flu vaccine uptake (CDC) and another three year foundation funded grant on depression in older adults. My current research focuses on the oral health of older adults, with NIH funding. I am committed to participatory intervention studies with older adults that improve health while increasing socialization opportunities and potential for organizing on public health concerns. My publications cover a variety of health topics across the developmental spectrum, as well as methodology for the conduct of ethnography in community, school and other settings and CBPR. I have been elected president of the SfAA (where I also served on the board and as secretary for a year), and CAE and served as a AAA board member from 2009-2012.

Selected publications:
1999 Schensul, J. Building Community Research Partnerships in the Struggle Against AIDS. Vol. 26(2): 266-283.
2003 Schensul, J., Levy, J. & Disch, W. Individual, contextual and social network factors affecting exposure to HIV/AIDS risk among older residents living in low income senior housing complexes. JAIDS, Vol.1(33): S1382.
2005 Schensul, J. & Burkholder, G. Vulnerability, Social Networks, Sites and Selling as Predictors of Drug Use among Urban African American and Puerto Rican Emerging Adults. Journal of Drug Issues, Vol. 35(2): 379-407.
2006 Schensul, J. J., Robison, J., Reyes, C., Radda, K., Gaztambide, S., & Disch, W. (2006). Building interdisciplinary/intersectoral research partnerships for community-based mental health research with older minority adults. American journal of community psychology, 38(1-2), 79-93.
2008 Schensul, J., Berg, M. & Williamson, K. Challenging Hegemonies: Advancing Collaboration in Community Based Participatory Action Research. Collaborative Anthropologies, Vol.1:102 – 138.
2009 Schensul, J. Community, Culture and Sustainability in Multilevel Dynamic Systems Intervention Science, American Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 43(3/4), June 2009.
2009 Robison, J., Schensul, J. J., Coman, E., Diefenbach, G. J., Radda, K. E., Gaztambide, S., & Disch, W. B. (2009). Mental health in senior housing: racial/ethnic patterns and correlates of major depressive disorder. Aging & mental health, 13(5), 659-673.
2010 Schensul, J., Chandran, D., Singh, S.K., Berg, M., Gupta, K. The Use of Qualitative Comparative Analysis for Critical Event Research in Alcohol and HIV in Mumbai, India. AIDS and Behavior: Volume 14, Issue 1 (2010), Page 113.
2010 Berg, M., D. Kremelberg, P. Diwedi, S. Verma, J. Schensul, K. Gupta, D. Chandran, S. K. Singh. “The Effects of Husband’s Alcohol Consumption on Married Women in Three Low-Income Areas of Greater Mumbai. AIDS and Behavior 14(0): 126-135.
2010 Schensul, J., S. Singh, et al. (2010). “Alcohol and HIV in India: A Review of Current Research and Intervention.
AIDS and Behavior 14(0): 1-7.
2009 Schensul, J. Engaged Universities, Community Based Research Organizations and Third Sector Science in a Global System, Human Organization, Vol. 69(4): 308 – 320.
2011 Singer, E. & Schensul, J.J. 2011. Negotiating Ecstasy Risk, Reward and Control: A qualitative analysis of drug management patterns among Ecstasy-using urban young adults. Substance Use and Misuse, Vol. 47:1675-1689.
2011 Trickett, E.J., Beehler, S., Deutsch, C. Green, L., Hawe, Pl, McLeroy, K., Miller R.L., Rapkin, B.D., Schensul, Jean J., Schultz, A.M., Trimble, J.E. Advancing the Science of Community-Level Interventions, AJPH, Vol. 101(8): 1410-1419.
2012. Moonzwe, L., Schensul, J.J., & Kostick, K. The Role of MDMA (Ecstasy) in Coping with Negative Life Situations Among Urban Young Adults, Jr. of Psychoactive drugs, Vol. 42(3):199–210. .
2012 Coman, E., Iordache, E., Schensul, J., & Coiculescu, I. Comparisons of CES-D depression scoring methods in two older adults ethnic groups. The emergence of an ethnic-specific brief three-item CES-D scale. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Http://
2012 Black, A., K. Serowik, Schensul, J. et al. “Build a Better Mouse: Directly-Observed Issues in Computer Use for Adults with SMI.” Psychiatric Quarterly: 1-12.
2012 Schensul, J., Nair, S., Bilgi, S. Cromley, E., Kadam, V., D Mello, S., Donta, B. Availability, Accessibility Availability, accessibility and promotion of smokeless tobacco in a low-income area of Mumbai.” Tobacco Control. Online First 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050148
2013 Schensul, J. “Building a System Dynamic Model of Smokeless Tobacco Use in Mumbai.” Practicing Anthropology 35.1 (2013): 24-28.
2013 Schensul, J.. Youth Participatory Action Research. Chapter in Encyclopedia of Action Research, edited by Brydon-Miller, M.
2014 Trotter, R., Schensul, J. & Kostick, K. Applied Research Methods, in Bernard, H.R. and Gravlee, L. Research Methods in Anthropology, 2nd edition in press.
2014 Schensul, S., Schensul, J., Weeks, M. Singer, M. CBPR/PAR in anthropology in Bernard, H.R. and Gravlee, L. Research Methods in Anthropology, 2nd edition, in press.
2014 Moonzwe, L., Schensul, S., Schensul, J., Nastasi, B. Women’s Empowerment and its Differential Impact on Health in Low Income Communities in Mumbai, India”. Global Public Health, in press.
2014 Brawner, B. Reason, J., Goodman, B., Guthrie, B. and Schensul, J. Community Ethnography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Exploration of Multi-level Drivers of HIV/AIDS among Black Philadelphians. Nursing Research, in press.
2015 Schensul, J.J. Community-based Research Organizations: Co-constructing public knowledge and bridging knowledge/action communities through Participatory Action Research in Public Anthropology in a Borderless World, Beck, S. & Maida, C. A. (eds). Los Angeles, CA: U of California Press, accepted for publication.
2015 Nastasi, B. K., Schensul, J.J., Schensul, S.L., Mekkibarada, A., Pelto, P.J., Maitra, S., Verma, R., Saggurti, N. A Model for Translating Ethnography and Theory into Culturally Constructed Clinical Practices. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. March, 2015, accepted for publication.

As a medical anthropologist with a commitment to gerontological research and intervention, I have worked in interdisciplinary gerontological circles for some time. Often I find that am the only person representing anthropology. I am committed to advancing anthropological work in gerontology and geriatrics and see a closer relationship with AAGE as one way to become more familiar with the work of other anthropological gerontologists around the country and the world. I also have many years of experience in the management of research nonprofits, including fiscal management, and had fiscal oversight in the organizations for which I held elected office. I would very much enjoy bringing this experience to bear on the economic well-being of the AAGE, a strong organization with a committed membership.

“Age, Ability, and Healthcare” summer seminar, July 17-18 Hiram College

Collaborate in Addressing Ageism and Ableism in the Clinic and the Classroom

 A Summer Seminar jointly sponsored by Hiram College’s Center for Literature and Medicine and NEOMED


Thursday & Friday, July 17 & 18, 2014

Hiram College (Hiram, OH)


Up to 12 hours of Continuing Professional Education credit for Medicine (AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™) and Pharmacy available.

Participants may register for separate sessions or to attend the full two days of presentations.


Register by July 1 for Early Bird Discount

Sharing Experiences and Ideas in an Intimate Setting
Small group discussions among diverse practitioners and educators will be central in this seminar,
which features keynote sessions by national leaders in Age Studies, Disability Studies, and Health Humanities:
Anne Basting, Ph.D. (Professor of Theatre, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Founder and President of TimeSlips Creative Storytelling)
Thomas Cole, Ph.D. (Director, McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics, University of Texas Medical School at Houston)
Rebecca Garden, Ph.D. (Associate Professor of Bioethics and Humanities, SUNY Upstate Medical University)
Laurie Clements Lambeth, Ph.D. (Award-Winning Poet and Faculty in Medicine and Society at the University of Houston’s Honors College)


For more information or to register, see below, or visit:

Full Schedule of Events:


Small Group Discussions Facilitated By:

  • Sarah Berry – Assistant Professor of Biomedical Humanities, Hiram College Center for Literature and Medicine
  • Michael Blackie – Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Northeast Ohio Medical University
  • Harold Braswell – Assistant Professor of Health Care Ethics, Saint Louis University
  • Gretchen Case – Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics and Humanities, University of Utah School of Medicine
  • Andrea Charise – Assistant Professor of Health Studies, University of Toronto Scarborough
  • Aimi Hamraie – Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health and Society, Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health, & Society
  • Erin Lamb – Assistant Professor of Biomedical Humanities, Hiram College Center for Literature and Medicine
  • Leni Marshall – Faculty, Department of English and Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Stout

Earn Continuing Professional Education Credit

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and Policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) through the co/joint sponsorship of Northeast Ohio Medical University and Hiram College Center for Literature and Medicine.  Northeast Ohio Medical University is accredited by the ACCME and the ACPE to provide continuing education for physicians and pharmacists.

Northeast Ohio Medical University designates this live activity for a maximum of 12.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Each of the four application-based activities that comprise the seminar sessions has been assigned a Universal Activity Number (UAN) and will award 3.0 contact hours (.3 CEUs) of continuing pharmacy education.


Nurses may use AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™ awarded by ACCME accredited providers for licensure renewal.

Participants will be required to complete a program evaluation form upon completion of each session.



Seminar Schedule

Thursday, July 17, 2014


8:30a.m. – 9:00a.m.         Continental Breakfast – (Breakfast is included with admission to Session I.)

9:00a.m. – 10:30a.m.       Session I

10:30a.m. – 11:00a.m.    Break

11:00a.m. – 12:30p.m.    Session I


Session I: Rebecca Garden, Ph.D.

“A Harvest of Interpretations: Dementia and Decision-Making”


This session explores the ethical dimensions of decision-making for people with dementia, and cognitive disability more generally, and their caregivers by mining literary representations of not only dementia but also madness and addiction.  We will experiment with interpretation as a supplement to notions such as “best interest” or “substituted judgment,” testing this approach through readings of literature that generates meaning through disjuncture and displacements.


Key Learning Objectives:

  • Recognize how ethical approaches to health care typically privilege reason, logic, and other cognitive norms.
  • Differentiate these approaches from disability studies and narrative ethics.
  • Interpret and analyze literary representations of non-normative modes of communication in order to evaluate caregivers’ interpretive practices in shared decision-making.

Early Registration Admission: $60.00

This application-based activity has been assigned Universal Activity Number (UAN) 0479-9999-14-117-L04-P and will award 3.0 contact hours (.3 CEUs) of continuing pharmacy education.



12:30p.m. – 1:30p.m.      Lunch – (Lunch is included with admission to Session II.)

1:30p.m. – 3:00p.m.        Session II: Part A

3:00p.m. – 3:30p.m.        Break

3:30p.m. – 5:00p.m.        Session II: Part B


Session II: Thomas Cole, Ph.D.

Part A: “Accomplishment and Limitation: Conversations with Distinguished Male Elders”


This part of the session will explore interviews and conversations that Dr. Cole has had with 10 distinguished men over 80 in the last three years.  It will highlight themes of sexuality, love, faith, and death as mediators of the gulf between current physical and cognitive limitations.


Key Learning Objectives:

  • Apply autobiographical accounts to contextualize health and disease.
  • Explore the paradoxical potential for spiritual growth alongside physical decline in later life.


Part B: “Composing an Ethics Case as a Song of Life”


This part of the session will focus on the “case” of a ninety-year old demented woman whose hands were strapped to her nursing home bed to prevent her from pulling out a feeding tube.  It will show how a multi-voiced narrative opens up a rich portrait of the experiences of the woman, her family, and her caregivers.


Key Learning Objectives:

  • Evaluate an ethical dilemma using story rather than bioethical analysis alone.
  • Relate the rich particularity of a single “case” to the overabundant richness and multiple meanings inherent in ethical dilemmas in general.


Early Registration Admission: $60.00

This application-based activity has been assigned Universal Activity Number (UAN) 0479-9999-14-118-L04-P and will award 3.0 contact hours (.3 CEUs) of continuing pharmacy education.

6:00-7:00p.m.     Dinner ($25.00, includes beer and wine)



7:00 p.m.             Screening of Penelope: The Documentary (2013)
Followed by Q & A with Director of the Penelope Project, Dr. Anne Basting

Open to the public and free of charge


What happens when a nursing home decides to throw out the bingo boards and take on the Odyssey instead?  Penelope: The Documentary tells the story of how residents, some with severe dementia or wheel-chair bound, collaborate with playwright Anne Basting and Sojourn Theater to create “Finding Penelope,” a play reinterpreting Homer’s Odyssey to tell it from Penelope’s point of view.  This one-hour film is a beautiful exploration of how the residents, actors and students collaborated, from reading the Odyssey together to learning Greek and eventually putting on a professional play featuring scenes all over the nursing home and an audience of over 400 moving through the space.






Friday, July 18, 2014


8:30a.m. – 9:00a.m.         Continental Breakfast – (Breakfast is included with admission to Session III.)

9:00a.m. – 10:30a.m.       Session III

10:30a.m. – 11:00a.m.    Break

11:00a.m. – 12:30p.m.    Session III


Session III: Anne Basting, Ph.D.

“Finding Normal Through Art”


In long term care communities, those with physical and cognitive disabilities are commonly stigmatized and avoided.  This session will explore how participatory arts can be used to build community across continuing care communities by looking at several model programs.


Key Learning Objectives:

  • Define stigma and describe its manifestation in long term care facilities.
  • Describe the qualities of accessible participatory arts programs and identify model programs that illustrate those qualities.
  • Question whether those qualities can be extended beyond long term care communities.


Early Registration Admission: $60.00

This application-based activity has been assigned Universal Activity Number (UAN) 0479-9999-14-119-L04-P and will award 3.0 contact hours (.3

CEUs) of continuing pharmacy education.


12:30p.m. – 1:30p.m.      Lunch – (Lunch is included with admission to Session IV.)

1:30p.m. – 3:00p.m.        Session IV

3:00p.m. – 3:30p.m.        Break

3:30p.m. – 5:00p.m.        Session IV


Session IV: Laurie Lambeth, Ph.D., M.F.A.

“Disrupting Chronology: Spots of Time (or Timey Wimey)”


Too often, chronological narratives are imposed upon disability, narratives with assumed trajectories of cause and effect, or of diagnosis leading to suffering, leading to cure or death. This contributes to narratives of tragedy or triumph, always moving in one direction, rather than addressing individual moments of experience in flux. While older adults face stigma as they live with chronologically acquired disabilities, younger people living with impaired mobility, urinary continence, or cognition—generally thought to occur later in life—face a different kind of stigma; they don’t conform to chronological expectations, and are often held accountable, considered fraudulent for using accessible facilities, assumed to be lazy, drunk, or unintelligent for slowed movement or cognition. In this session we will seek a more poetic understanding of illness, disability, and age, through what Wordsworth called “spots of time”: compressed and vivid moments. In Doctor Whoparlance, age and disability is far more “wibbly-wobbly” and “timey-wimey” than chronology affords. In the session we will “read” clips from television and classic film, recognizing narrative assumptions viewers make. We will also read and respond to poems as well as craft our own.


Key Learning Objectives:

  • Practice “reading” patients as poems rather than stories, investing more in “spots of time,” grasping experience more fully than we could with chronological narratives.
  • Examine age and disability outside of common chronological assumptions, thus expanding concepts of narrative medicine, disability, and age itself.
  • Appraise the ways that actively reading individual patients’ experiences may result in more careful, precise clinical choices, minimizing error while also strengthening the bonds of empathy, empowering clinicians and patients equally.


Early Registration Admission: $60.00

This application-based activity has been assigned Universal Activity Number (UAN) 0479-9999-14-120-L04-P and will award 3.0 contact hours (.3

CEUs) of continuing pharmacy education.




6:00-7:00p.m.                    Dinner ($25.00, includes beer and wine)




On-campus housing is available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings for those who desire it.   Space is limited and will be reserved on a first-come, first served basis.  After the early registration date (May 15), we cannot guarantee the availability of on-campus housing.  Lodging choices include:

  • The Historic Hiram Inn and Conference Center – $100.00 per night, tax inclusive.
    All rooms feature private bathrooms, cable television, wireless internet access, and parking at the Hiram Inn.
  • The Townhouse Living Community – $60.00 per night, tax inclusive.

Each guest will have one of the four private, single bedrooms, but will share the two bathrooms with other guests in the townhouse.  Each townhouse also includes a kitchen with refrigerator, stove, microwave and dishwasher, a furnished living room, a washer and dryer, air-conditioning, Internet access and private parking spaces.




Early Registration Prices will run through July 1.  After that, late registration admission prices will be $75.00 per session.


For more information or to register for the seminar, please visit or call 330-569-5380.



“Playing Age” University of Toronto, Feb. 27-28, 2015 (deadline Sept. 5)

Call for Papers: Playing Age

University of Toronto, Feb. 27-28, 2015

The symposium “Playing Age” offers a humanistic exploration of aging, old age, and inter-generational relations. Seminal theorists of play, from Johan Huizinga to Roger Caillois, claimed that rule-bounded games and mimetic enactments create a “magic circle” in which conflicts within the self and the community can be negotiated at a safe remove. More recently, performance and game theorists have insisted that even playing within the bounded precincts of a stadium, a theatre, or a video game influences everyday conduct, particularly when we play with volatile topics like inter-cultural representations, social class, race and gender. This symposium asks how aging and old age can be investigated through playing, specifically the playfulness of artistic representations, and whether aging is uniquely available for or resistant to imaginative inhabitations.

As British historian Pat Thane maintains, old age “cannot simply be a social construct, an artifice of perception, or fashioned through discourse – unquestionably bodies age, change, decay – but the images, expectations, and experience of older men and women have been constructed in different ways at different times and for differing people at any one time.” Until recently, there has been relatively little attention paid to the stories and images produced by artists about aging and old age and how these aesthetic representations interrelate with medical and political norms and expectations. These imaginative constructs are crucial precisely because they offer insight into the “images, expectations, and experience” that have changed and, in some cases, been forgotten over time. To broaden the view of aging and old age beyond biomedical and social science terms, this symposium explores works produced by a host of sound artists, video game designers, theatre and performance artists, film makers and authors—works that enable us to recognize aging and old age as not only a biological process but also as malleable, culturally mediated experiences.

There is, of course, a growing interest in the representation of aging in the humanities. We are especially interested in examples, theorizations, and analyses of theatre/performance, film, video games, graphic novels, and literature that raise the following questions about age, aging, and intergenerational relationships:

— How do you pretend to be older than you are? How do you instruct someone else to play at being older than they are? What are the benefits of playing age from the outside in or from the inside out?

–When and why is simulating old age—as an actor, an author, a painter, a graphic novelist—evidence of virtuosity? Is “playing” an older person an act of self-effacement or of self-expansion?

–How do you represent an older person to an older audience and how do you represent an older person to a younger audience? How do artistic programmers imagine the receptivity of differently aged demographics?

— How do the different arts evoke aging minds and bodies differently? Which neglected visual, aural, or tactile experiences of aging can an artwork make available?

— What were the conventions of representing old age in other periods? What arguments can be made for resuscitating those traditions?

— What characterizes evocative artistic instances of youth imagining age, or age recalling youth? What kinds of fidelity to the experience of aging can intergenerational estrangement, displacement, or desire produce that empirical observation cannot?

— What are the affects, exuberant and abject, of aging? Can art simulate, evoke, or even create affective experiences of aging? What are the erotics of aging, and how does art evade or call attention to the libidos of old age?

— How do individual artworks represent aging as a kind of ability or disability, and how do they combat ableism as a frame for thinking of aging?

— When and how are new technologies and new media made available to aging audiences? How do video game or social media designers create characters, stories, and interfaces that will appeal to older users?

Please direct inquiries and submissions (50 word bio; 700 word proposal; 100 word abstract) no later than Sept. 5, 2014, by email to the co-organizers, Profs. Marlene Goldman ( and Lawrence Switzky (



New Book: UNFORGOTTEN Love and the Culture of Dementia Care in India Bianca Brijnath

UNFORGOTTEN: Love and the Culture of Dementia Care in IndiaBrijnathUnforgotten
Bianca Brijnath

Announcing Volume 2, Life Course, Culture and Aging: Global Transformations series edited by Jay Sokolovsky in cooperation with AAGE. Bianca Brijnath’s first book, “Unforgotten: Love and Culture of Dementia Care in India” is due for release in July 2014. Here is what readers are saying:

This is a superb study, one of the most exciting, original, perceptive and engrossing books I have read in India studies and aging studies in some time…One of the most attractive features of it is its eloquent, often poetic, writing style that draws the reader in from the first pages through to the end.”  ·  Sarah Lamb, Brandeis University

“…a deeply humane account of the disparate experiences of middle class Indian families in Delhi–in their homes, public spaces and medical facilities–as they care for older family members with dementia. The gender, class and health inequities of daily life and the cultural ideal of seva (respect and service to family elders) resonate through these experiences of hope and despair, love and frustration, stigma and silence.”  ·  Maria G. Cattell, The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

As life expectancy increases in India, the number of people living with dementia will also rise. Yet little is known about how people in India cope with dementia, how relationships and identities change through illness and loss. In addressing this question, this book offers a rich ethnographic account of how middle-class families in urban India care for their relatives with dementia. From the husband who wakes up at 3 am to feed his wife ice-cream to the daughters who gave up employment for seven years to care for their mother with dementia, this book illuminates the local idioms on dementia and aging, the personal experience of care-giving, the functioning of stigma in daily life, and the social and cultural barriers in accessing support.

Bianca Brijnath is a NHMRC Early Career Fellow in the Department of General Practice, Monash University, Australia. She is a researcher in medical anthropology, public health and primary health care. Her areas of interest include cross-cultural meanings of mental health and care and her field sites include India and Australia. This is her first book.



Chapter 1. Methods and Character Building
Chapter 2. The Diagnostic Process
Chapter 3. Therapeutics and Health Seeking
Chapter 4. The Economies of Care
Chapter 5. Alzheimer’s and the Indian Appetite
Chapter 6. Stigma and Loneliness in Care
Chapter 7. The Journey to Silence

Conclusion: ‘This is the Time for Romance’

Purchase this book here:

Aging in an Age of Climate Change: Part 4, by Janelle Christensen

  Janelle Christensen, data program analyst, Lake Worth campus       Janelle Christensen, PhD, MPH (AAGE member since 2006). Janelle’s research interests lie at the intersection of disaster management and aging studies, exploring how community dwelling families respond to emergency preparedness and disaster planning while simultaneously providing care for family members with Alzheimer’s disease.  She completed both PhD in Applied Biocultural Medical Anthropology and a Masters in Public Health (MPH) at the University of South Florida and has done Socio-legal research in intentional communities (Camphill Communities) based on the care of individuals with developmental disabilities in both Germany and the United States while completing her MA in Sociology of Law. Janelle is currently working as a Program Data Analyst for the Health Information program at Palm Beach State College.


home 3

Photo credit: Gaby Viteri Darczuk, 2011

Elders and caregivers living in the Lake Okeechobee, Florida area provide a microcosm of such vulnerability and provide both insight into the difference between federal and local county policies, and potential success stories. The areas surrounding Lake Okeechobee was the site of one of the most deadly hurricanes to strike the United States in 1928 resulting in at least 1,836 dead (though it is estimated that there were far more).19–21 This area remains second only to New Orleans in vulnerability to hurricanes.22 (Zora Neal Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, was based on this hurricane in the Lake Okeechobee area). Even with repairs on the dike surrounding the Lake which began in 2011, the area remains at risk.23,24

I interviewed twenty people providing care to someone with Alzheimer’s disease in Palm Beach County, Florida. Five of these families lived on in on the banks of Lake Okeechobee. All of the caregivers interviewed in this area were over the age of 40 themselves and caring for an adult parent with Alzheimer’s disease (all over the age of 65) who currently lived with them. Three of the five caregivers I interviewed who lived on the banks of Lake Okeechobee occupied federally funded “HUD” housing.25 Though the HUD buildings in Florida are usually constructed out of cinderblock (structurally stronger than wood framed homes), these particular buildings are located in hurricane prone areas and do not have hurricane shutters. Caregivers were told that if they so desired, they could install hurricane shutters on their rented HUD apartments, however, due to the financial barriers of doing so, none of the caregivers interviewed had installed them (Note: low income is a requirement for living in HUD housing, which would also preclude home improvements to rented property).

The lack of shutters was a concern not only for protecting windows from the impact of flying objects during hurricanes, but for protecting the contents of a home after the storm. Caregivers reported that crime rates increased after the hurricanes in 2004-2005. Some families are reluctant to evacuate in the future because they fear the loss of their property to theft. Caregivers interviewed expressed concern over the escalation in crime after future hurricanes because the local economy had deteriorated since 2004-2005. Many may choose not to evacuate in the past (or at least not to evacuate a great distance) because they want to be able to return and protect their belongings from the anticipated looting that has followed hurricanes.

Pahokee City Hall

Photo credit: Gaby Viteri Darczuk

There were other reasons cited for staying closer to home when evacuating: Special Needs Shelters,26 which might have more specific accommodations for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, were further away (approximately an hour) and only allowed one caregiver to be present. If they evacuated to the local shelter (located in a Bell Glade high school), then they could remain with their extended families. It is important to note that most of the city of Belle Glade is also on the banks of Lake Okeechobee. If the eye of a hurricane were to pass directly over Lake Okeechobee as it presumably did in 1928, there would be catastrophic flooding to the area and likely render even this shelter unsafe.

One caregiver was firm in evacuating for any hurricane threat, in large part because in addition to caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s disease, the caregiver also had a medical condition that qualified her for the Special Needs Shelter. This dyad evacuated for both Hurricanes Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012), even though the storms remained approximately 100 miles off the coast of Florida. Their experiences demonstrate the services that are available in Palm Beach County, should residents need them: before each storm, the county sent transportation to pick up both the caregiver and her mother and transport them to the Special Needs Shelter, where they could continue to receive necessary medical services. In addition, Palm Beach County coordinates with local Alzheimer’s care providers (i.e. Alzheimer’s Community Care) who provides specially trained volunteers to better address the needs of people with an Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia during stressful disaster events. (Note: During 2011 and 2012, these dementia specific services were not deployed because the storms were not predicted to directly impact Florida). During the 2004-2005 hurricanes, this family was unable to return home after a hurricane due to the flooding in the area. The county and American Red Cross provided temporary housing in a skilled nursing facility where both the caregiver and her mother could receive care and necessary medical treatments. After the threat passed, and it was safe to do so, the county assisted in transporting them home.

The above example demonstrates a success story in service provision, coordination, and utilization. Palm Beach County has both the resources and the political impetus to provide these safety measures for its citizens. The same cannot be said for all of the counties that surround the shores of Lake Okeechobee.27 There can be a large variation in the availability of local resources and emergency management priorities from county to county. Furthermore, Lake Okeechobee has not received a direct hit from a hurricane in approximately 90 years, meaning the full capacity of even Palm Beach County to respond to a potential catastrophe has not been fully tested, especially as the intensity of hurricanes are predicted to increase as a result of warmer oceans.

The paradox facing many families is in an aging society is this: Those with the means to protect themselves in the event of a climate related disaster have less incentive to take the science behind climate change seriously than those who live at the margins, such as those who live below sea level in the 9th ward in New Orleans, Louisiana or elders living in HUD housing on the banks of Lake Okeechobee, Florida. However, those who are the most vulnerable often have the most difficulty prioritizing threats such as climate change; the threat of a stronger hurricane as a result of warmer oceans is much further from their thoughts than what they are going to eat and if they have enough medicine. For applied anthropologists (and others), advocating for policy that reduces emissions at the grass roots level is just one way to also advocate for the protection of vulnerable populations most likely to suffer during climate change induced disasters.


Pahokee FPL

Photo Credit: Gaby Viteri Darczuk

This entry was a continuation of the Aging in an Age of Climate Change series. To see the previous post, click HERE.


19. Barnes J. Florida Hurricane History. UNC Publishers; 2007:1–407.

20. Mykle R. Killer ’Cane: The Dealy Hurricane of 1928. Cooper Square Press; 2002:232.

21. Kleinberg E. Black Cloud: The Deadly Hurricane of 1928. New York, New York, USA: Carroll & Graf Publishers; 2003:283.

22. Leatherman S. 10 Most Vulnerable Areas to Hurricanes. Hurric Cent. 2006. Available at: Accessed May 1, 2012.

23. Leatherman S, Zhang K, Xiao C. Lake Okeechobee, Florida: The next hurricane disaster? Water Resour Impact. 2007;9:5–7.

24. Morgan C. A Vulnerable Lake Okeechobee. Maimi Her. 2013. Available at:

25. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.). 2014. Available at:

26. Guidance on Planning for Personal Assistance Services in General Population Shelters. Fed Emerg Manag Agency. 2010:24. Available at: Accessed February 2, 2011.

27. Map of Florida. Available at:

Review: Collaborative Autoethnography (Chang, Heewon, Faith Wambura Ngunjiri, and Kathy-Ann C. Hernandez)

Chang,  Heewon, Faith Wambura Ngunjiri, and Kathy-Ann C. Hernandez. Collaborative Autoethnography. Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press.  2013. ISBN 978-1-59874-556-6  200 pp. Price $34.95 (paper)

Heewon Chang, Faith Wambura Ngunjiri, and Kathy-Ann Hernandez have collaborated to produce  Collaborative Autoethnography.  Coll-aborative Autoethnography (CAE) is a further elaboration of Autoethnography (AE). Researchers in both approaches see themselves as both the subject/informant of the research and the analyst of that research.  In CAE, the researcher/subject is part of a team that collects and analyzes her/his data.    This book is a review of past research in terms of methodology and a handbook on how to do collaborative research.

The authors place CAE and AE in terms of an evolving field of theoretical interest.  Researchers themselves have personal and professional lives that are situated in their institutions and culture(s).  AE (as well as CAE) allows the researcher/subject to turn a lens (p.22—their word) on her/his own life as well as the larger society.

AE has addressed abortions, pregnancy, death and grief, and sexual abuse, among other topics (pp.19-20.)  The book’s authors agree with other students of AE that while rich in data, more can be gained by a more collaborative approach.  Collaborative approaches allow for more depth as well as personal and community building.  At minimum, a collaboration can be two people—the researcher/subject and another researcher. They propose an ideal team of at least one more member.

CAE can focus on traditional academic concerns, with a single or several research focuses.  It can also extend to performance art, wherein “…autoethnographies are written as theater scripts… [or as] a series of poetry, or performance narratives… (p.51.)”  In terms of AAGE’s mission on aging, I can see many places where CAE can be used. A few “personal” examples come to mind.  People are doing “Story” projects in many communities.  Often located in museums or libraries, a person tells her/his story.  Teams of collaborators, whether professionals and/or non-professionals trained by professionals, can engage a person or several people to tell their life stories in greater depth.  Several years ago I taught a discussion class on “Generations” through our local junior college’s Older Adults Program. The discussion group was based in a nursing home.  It could have easily been based in a senior center as well.  The participants  reviewed their lives, providing wonderful information on their similarities and differences according to all our “standard” kinds of foci—gender, class, education, region, job, religion, sexual preference, and so on.  The data were rich and could easily be used to add to histories of different periods. Moreover, the data were enriched by each participant’s interaction with the others when they questioned or reaffirmed or remembered something or some events another had not.   Hopefully, we can find issues worthy of study that we had not expected as well.

As for academic collaborative teams, the authors contend that they  work best when the participants are located where they can have continued social interaction.  They are located in the same city.  They meet for coffee, lunch, dinner, and other events and they meet over time.  In terms of proposed methodologies, they suggest different models of collaboration, which can offer differing degrees of complexity. It would be interesting to see what kinds of data and studies can be gained by on-line collaboration or a mixture of the two.  As noted above, it may be possible to add that to the repertoire of CAE for older people that they can do by themselves or with some help.

As they lay out their models for research and their places in theory, they note that many of the studies involve women in the academy, immigrant experiences, and people of color.  They situate themselves in all the above ways and especially in terms of motherhood (pp.185-6.)  The authors build upon both feminist theory and feminist critique and the whole field of qualitative research.  The ends they seek say it all: “It [CAE] is a transforming process that allows scholars to build community, advance scholarship, engage in social activism, and become empowered in their social context (p.148.)  What makes this book  even more interesting is that as the authors lay out their formulations, they share relevant anecdotes about their own lives.

The authors also address some of the dilemmas this kind of fieldwork entails.  One always has to ask:  How much should I reveal about myself?  How much should I reveal about others—especially without their consent?  How should I present my data?  They recognize that collaboration helps reveal issues that are not always apparent to the subject (p.28.)  Lastly, they see the research process as supportive for the person studied as she experiences or re-experiences trauma or a difficult situation (p.30.)

I have several suggestions for the book.  First, I think the title should have been Collaborative Autoethnography: A Handbook. That makes it clearer as to what the book is about.  Second, the authors should tie their research into other related research about the psychology and anthropology of fieldwork experiences, (cf. Davies and Spencer  2010.)  Third, in terms of my self-disclosure about my comments, I am an anthropologist as well as a licensed psychologist. I would have liked to see much more of a discussion of the handling of trauma and denial, among other psychological issues (e.g., p.29.)  In sum, I would strongly recommend this book for those unfamiliar with this emerging field and who want to do this kind of valuable research.

Davies, James and Dimitrina Spencer. 2010 Emotions in the Field: The Psychology and Anthropology of fieldwork Experience. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Richard Zimmer   
Sonoma State University


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Review: Elder Care Catastrophe: Rituals of Abuse in Nursing Homes & What You Can Do About It (Jason S. Ulsperger and J. David Knottnerus)

Ulsperger, Jason S. and Knottnerus, J. David. Elder Care Catastrophe: Rituals of Abuse in Nursing Homes & What You Can Do About It. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Press. 2011. ISBN 9781594519079, 222 pp.
Price $ 28.95 (Paper).

As the population rapidly ages and people are living longer, today’s Boomers are faced with the complex decision of determining who is going to provide proper care for their elderly parents.  Dependent upon medical, financial, physical, mental and other specific needs, some individuals may decide to care for their parents on their own while others seek out long-term care facilities such as assisted living, adult day care, respite care or nursing homes that provide optimum care. While finding a facility takes time and much thought, the complexity of the issue lies in finding long-term care where elders are treated with kindness, respect, and cared for as human beings; not abused, neglected, ignored or treated as “impersonal, material items” (84).
Authors Jason Ulsperger and J. David Knottnerus investigate the root causes of abuse in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities based on systematic research and sociological theory to help one understand the different types of nursing home maltreatment.  The book is divided into nine chapters. Beginning with identifying the bureaucracy that encompasses today’s nursing homes and other long-term facilities, the text transitions into the history of nursing home care. Final chapters focus on the organizational dynamics and everyday rituals that can unintentionally lead to elder abuse and neglect.
Although present in the 1960s, nursing home care and maltreatment drastically emerged as a social problem and came to the forefront in the 1970s. This resulted in the establishment of the nursing home reform movement and efforts by organizations such as the National Citizen’s Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR) to continue to assume important roles in the history of nursing homes.  Interestingly as the authors point out, even with the development of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA) also known as the “Nursing Home Reform Act” (59) elder abuse and maltreatment continued to plaque our nation and impact the care of aging adults.  But why?
Bureaucracy and rules impact the overall care for our elderly.  Rules replace compassion.  Government regulations impact how assigned, everyday duties or “rituals” go unnoticed or undone due to daily tasks assigned to specific employees based on skill/knowledge levels.  Simple things such as removing dirty dishes from the table in a resident’s room or seeing a resident stranded in a hallway waiting for someone to roll them back to their room may not get done if top-level employees are the only ones available.  I totally agree that in our complex world rules are a necessity. However environments where people are dependent on compassion and quality care at a time in their life when they are alone, afraid, and/or ill, rules can contribute to unethical and inhumane care.
This book addresses the core issues of elder abuse and maltreatment and provides case vignettes of everyday situations that long-term/nursing facility residents tolerate due to bureaucratic policies. I was angered when I read many of these short stories which depict bureaucratic induced dehumanization of care. The authors stress the need for culture change; shifting away from the traditional nursing home model (130) to a positive, “resident-centered care” model, thus transforming a facility into a home. The authors remind the reader to acknowledge the elderly for the human beings they are and not “unemotional work products” (83). Engage them, don’t isolate and be responsive to individual needs. Hire employees who have the compassion and desire to care for the elderly and not just fill bureaucratic positions based on policies/demographics.
I would recommend this book to any lay person, healthcare provider, nursing facility employee; or anyone from the Boomer generation who may be faced with the decision of one day finding the proper home for a parent.  This book should be required reading for anyone working in a nursing home or long-term care facility as a reminder how not to treat those they are caring for. Although a quick read, this book provides a wealth of advice and strategies for lessening elder abuse and maltreatment. In one of the chapters the authors compare today’s nursing homes to zoos; stressing the point that residents who are unruly and labeled “troublemakers” are often tranquilized and restrained to protect themselves and those around them much like a zoo keeper would do to a wild gorilla. Both have staff ready to contain unruly creatures that cause disruptions throughout the workday, even if the physical welfare suffers.
Two other types of maltreatment the authors identify is “spoken aggression” and “infantilization” (122). Spoken aggression involves speaking to residents in an intimidating, cold tone or calling names (e.g., calling an older female resident a “mean old woman” or yelling at someone to “shut up and eat your dinner”) (123).  Infantilization is speaking in a condescending way that reduces the status of the resident to a young child (117). Healthcare providers need to be attuned to the subtle nuances that can degrade the status of those they are caring for by treating them like children instead of the adults they are.
The world around us is aging and providing compassionate care is the model all facilities should strive toward. The authors summarize the book nicely by concluding that in order to provide such care, nursing homes must undergo culture changes that downplay bureaucracy, revise staff policies, counter loneliness and isolation from the inside, empower residents and respond to their individual needs.

Diane L. Brown, MS
Program Manager II
Medical College of Wisconsin


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Portfolio: Argentine Tango: Social dance health ‘to’ you, text and photos Jonathan Skinner

Anthropology & Aging Quarterly Volume 34, issue 4 (April 2014) pp.260-263

Argentine Tango: social dance health ‘to’ you

Download as PDF: AAQ34(4)portfolio_p1AAQ34(4)portfolio

These three photos evoke the plaint of life. They are a static portrait of Argentine tango dancers mid-movement. This is life and action frozen and memorialized from a long-awaited Christmas party in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Unlike Julie Taylor’s (2001) succession of mini-tango moves in her ethnography of tango and Argentina, a choreography by flipping, there is only the hint or trace of movement in these photos: the legs in open position with torque on the body, a shoelace working its way free; couples in closed embrace, the leader with motility, the partner with either open or closed eyes, primed to follow their initiations. There is longevity in the pictures from the detail of the marriage rings to the wrinkles on faces solemn with the dance, concentrating but also flowing with solace – ‘relaxed responsiveness’ as Richard Powers (2013) puts it.
Dance – described by Spencer (1) as that ‘nonutilitarian patterned movement’ – can be cathartic, controlling, competitive, communitarian as well as sustaining, maintaining and self-generating. There is solidarity amongst dancers, regularity in the order of attending, learning and performing a dance, and mutual self-affirming of an ontology of being-in-the-world each night when one dons one’s dance clothes and horns a pair of dance shoes. Leslie Gotfrit (1988) speaks to the nostalgia and longing of a bygone body in women reclaiming theirselves on the boogie floor. The same can be said of the tango couple, rejuvenating under the Christmas decorations. There is familiarity and comfort in the sociality of the Other in one’s arms, often a life partner of decades moving with you, reassuring walking as one. “I dance to you”: the ‘to’ a linking narrative and a metaphor for corporeal intimacy in the eyes of Judith Hamera’s (2001) appropriation of Irigaray-ian philosophy.
‘Indistinction’ is how Jonathan Bollen (2001) phrases it as the dancers lean in, support each other, and begin to move in an improvised script to a music from a far-away land and a far-away time. In this case, social dance transports us to Argentina in the 1940s. In the beating of the hearts, and the fleetness of the feet, and the alert anti-clockwise lead around the room, there is wellbeing. Solace seeps up through the motile feet and calm descends from a labile imagination.  Argentine tango, a self-selecting social dance, affects the dancers – variously, an anti-psychotic (Anon. 2013), a stabilizer for Parkinson’s (Hackney et al 2007), an omni-therapy (Woodley and Sotelano 2011). These are just some of the benefits of this genre of social dancing. Other social social dancing such as ballroom dancing also has its strengths as a form of ‘serious leisure’ (Stebbins 2006) – a personal vehicle for successful ageing (Skinner 2013) – and can retain muscle density and stave off social isolation amongst other benefits. But Argentine Tango has the ‘Healing Embrace’ (Berve 2008): it is a resting place for the active. Those interested in more tango visuals and in following up on the worth of tango in the medical setting can follow this link to the annual ‘All of Us Are Crazy for Tango’ programe put on by Hospital Borda in Buenos Aires.
Wherever danced – from Buenos Aires to Belfast, and carrying whatever condition – from physical to mental health issues, this dance addiction can become a boon and adjunct to other fracturing and faltering rhythms in life.
Dr Jonathan Skinner
University of Roehampton
2013 The “tango therapy,” very special treatment hospitals in Argentina., accessed 29 December.
Berve, Anette
2008 Tango Therapy: The Healing Embrace. The Argentina Independent, 1 August,, accessed 6 February 2014.
Bollen, Jonathan
2001 Queer Kinesthesia: Performativity on the Dance Floor. In Dancing Desires: Choreographing Sexualities On and Off the Stage. J. Desmond ed. Pp. 285-314. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
Gotfrit, Leslie
1988 Women Dancing Back: Disruption and the Politics of Pleasure. Journal of Education 170(3): 122-141.
Hackney, M. E., Kantorovich, S., Levin, R., and Gammon, M.
2007 Effects of tango on functional mobility in Parkinson’s disease: A preliminary study. Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy 31(4): 173-179. See more at:
Hamera, Judith
2001 I Dance To you: Reflections on Irigaray’s I Love To You in Pilates and Virtuosity. Cultural Studies 15(2): 229-240.
Powers, Richard
2013 Great Partnering., accessed 29 December.
Skinner, Jonathan
2013 Social Dance for Successful Aging: The Practice of Health, Happiness, and Social Inclusion Amongst Senior Citizens. Anthropology & Aging Quarterly 34(1): 18-29.
Stebbins, Robert A.
2006 Serious Leisure: A Perspective For Our Time. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Taylor, Julie
2001 Paper Tangos. Durham: Duke University.
Woodley, Karen and Sotelano, Martin
2011 Tango Therapy 2, Research and Practice. Cardiff: Creations.