Gray Matters: Finding Meaning in the Stories of Later Life (Global Perspectives on Aging) (Paperback)
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Aging is one of the most compelling issues today, with record numbers of seniors over sixty-five worldwide. Gray Matters: Finding Meaning in the Stories of Later Life examines a diverse array of cultural works including films, literature, and even art that represent this time of life, often made by people who are seniors themselves. These works, focusing on important topics such as housing, memory loss, and intimacy, are analyzed in dialogue with recent research to explore how “stories” illuminate the dynamics of growing old by blending fact with imagination. Gray Matters also incorporates the life experiences of seniors gathered from over two hundred in-depth surveys with a range of questions on growing old, not often included in other age studies works. Combining cultural texts, gerontology research, and observations from older adults will give all readers a fuller picture of the struggles and pleasures of aging and avoids over-simplified representations of the process as all negative or positive.
About the Author
Ellyn Lem is a professor of English and gender studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Waukesha.
“Creative, wide-ranging and well-written, Gray Matters offers a many-sided, complex understanding of late-life. It demonstrates that this period of our lives interweaves our past and present, takes grit, and offers opportunities for positive experiences. For some, learning becomes more enjoyable, as the phrase ‘senior college’ indicates. Gray Matters also skillfully shows that aging occurs in a social context, a fact often overlooked when the process is understood as solely an individual matter.”
— Margaret Cruikshank
"Gray Matters invites readers to reexamine what they think they know about growing old. Offering succinct close readings of richly diverse cultural texts, Lem’s book presents literature as a resource for dealing with the practical and existential concerns of aging. With its interdisciplinary grounding in age studies theory and sociological data, Gray Matters is itself a valuable resource for readers ready to reorient their view of later life."
— Erin Lamb
"Lem draws examples from literature, film, television, and a survey of older people to support a wide-ranging and accessible examination of contemporary culture. Especially helpful to those who are new to the field, this book is a welcome addition to age-studies scholarship."
— Valerie Lipscomb
"A savvy analysis of films, books, and studies undermining Philip Roth’s contention that 'Old age is not a battle. It is a massacre.'"
— Susan Gubar
"The Literature of Elder Care is Often About Shifting Power Dynamics: Ellyn Lem on Works by Shakespeare, Lauren Fox, and Others"
— Literary Hub
"Drawing on literature, movies and TV as well as her survey research with 200 seniors, Lem explores the diversity of experiences of older people and pushes back against negative stereotypes about aging. Sexuality, housing, memory loss, adult children and death are among the topics."
— Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Often, the elderly handle the pandemic very well. Here’s why," by Ellyn A. Lem
— Washington Post