Should We Do What Comes Naturally? The Quest for Meaning in Old Age

  • Ronald J. Manheimer
Part of the International Perspectives on Aging book series (Int. Perspect. Aging, volume 25)


Theories of human nature might provide the keys to discovering the purpose and meaning of later life. But such theories have come under fire in recent decades, as they have been found to harbor covert or overt messages of a clearly prejudicial kind. Critiques of colonialism, gender stereotypes, and sexual orientation have destabilized arguments from nature. Likewise, naturalistic accounts of aging and later life have also been subject to critical analysis as modernist societies struggle to valorize, find guidance for, or liberate what it means to grow old. Four contrasting accounts of later life reveal underlying theories of nature that either support an inherent sense of purposes and social norms or, conversely, cast doubt on any imperative for how older adults should live out their later years. In the quest for meaning in later life, philosophically, should we “do what comes naturally?”


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald J. Manheimer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of North CarolinaAshevilleUSA

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