Metaphors Of Aging
Aside from scientific measurements of human aging and the social structuring of the life course, people understand what it means to age and grow older by producing their own metaphoric and symbolic images. The world's religious and literary traditions are a rich source of images about the aging process, while secular examples portray life as a wheel, a journey, a race, a procession, a clock, a hill, over which one climbs, or a return to second childhood. Metaphorical innovations in language can also shake up traditional conventions about aging. Terms such as male menopause or midlife crisis raise the issue of how individual and social aging are intertwined. The term late midlife astonishment (Pearlman, 1993) is a timely metaphorical antidote to centuries of negative images about middle-aged menopausal women. The mommy track is a creative metaphor about women's career path in the workplace, indicating that women must cope with combining careers and parenthood. Whatever their source, metaphors of aging serve to remind us that the human spirit renews itself, in large part, by confronting the paradoxes of living and dying in time.
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