Plato's Theory of Aging


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Abstract

Plato's writings express a positive attitude toward elderly people. But do his writings also show a serious theoretical interest in issues of aging? We approach this question by comparing what Plato says about aging to major theoretical issues in gerontology. We argue that many of Plato's subtler observations of the behavior of elderly people and many of his ideas about aging anticipate specific research and theoretical advances in contemporary gerontology. We compare passages in Plato's works to the debate between activity and disengagement theories, the concepts of continuity and gerotranscendence, Robert Butler's discovery of “the life review,” and recent theories of old age wisdom. Plato's anticipation of these ideas and issues related to them suggests that his writings may contain still other major insights into aging which are not yet articulated in gerontology. We suggest three possibilities.

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