Polarities and Similarities: An Outline Framework
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It is only in recent times that a concern with the global range of human experience in ageing has become identified as an issue for study in gerontology (Palmore, 1980, p. xvii). This phenomenon is in itself instructive, in that the concentration of gerontological study in North America and Northern Europe is a reflection of underlying social processes. As we shall see, these have brought together the increased longevity and greater proportions of populations defined as ‘elderly’ with particular welfare responses and the interest of professionals and academics to understand and respond to ageing. As a consequence, comparative work, even recently, has been centred around the perspectives of the dominant societies that have been labelled as the ‘First World’, although there have been some interesting contributions from social anthropology (Cowgill, 1972; Palmore, 1980; Victor, 1987; Fennell et al., 1988). So to propose the construction of a single comparative method is both premature and unhelpful. More relevant is a critical review of the diversity of approaches which have been taken to the comparative study of ageing and old age.
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