chapter  1
20 Pages

The Psychology of Aging in Historical Perspective

WithHelio Carpintero

Scientific psychology first emerged as a study of the relationship between the mind and the biological structures of an organism. As William James put it, scientific psychology is the science of mental states and their antecedent and consequent physiological processes. Humans are historical beings, and all of the different human dimensions are of a historical nature. All these dimensions must be viewed in a certain historical context, within which they are to be interpreted and evaluated. Age is no exception to the rule. The overview of the different ways in which old age has been valued through the annals of time emphasizes the historical, and not purely biological, nature of aging. In classical times, elderly people, scarce in number, were often valued as living receptacles of wisdom. Positive considerations, however, have not always prevailed. In classical Greece, old age was largely viewed as a declining stage of human life.