2014 to 2015
One Hundred Years of Health: Changing Expectations for Aging Well in 20th Century America
My project investigates the contested terrain of natural, normal, and healthy aging in the mid-twentieth century and its significant impact on expectations for medical intervention, responsibilities of social reform, and norms of self care. Using a diverse set of collections at the American Philosophical Society, College of Physicians of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, and the Hagley Museum and Library, I will examine the important links between medical, social, and individual models of aging, the ways different parties called upon and reworked definitions of a “natural” aging process, the changing expectations for medical technologies, and the ways increasing life expectancy complicated existing models of health and disease in American culture. This research will provide crucial grounding for my dissertation project examining how the fundamental demographic changes in life expectancy and chronic disease posed new problems of bodily decline but also new opportunities for medical and social intervention. Read more about Cara's research as a fellow of the Consortium here.