Concerns about aging, old age security, and intergenerational relations existed long before youth culture and falling fertility became such popular media topics. Lisa Dillon uses an examination of the censuses of Canada and the U.S. to break new ground by integrating statistical analyses of the historical data with a discourse analysis of ideas about age and old age. In The Shady Side of Fifty she explores the psychological, social, and economic dimensions of aging during a period of socio-economic and demographic change that mirrors the present day. Dillon uses the census as both a qualitative document and a source of quantitative data and also draws on diaries and letters to show how subtle shifts in the living arrangements of the elderly, decreasing intergenerational interdependence, and the advent of retirement and the empty nest changed the trajectory of old age during 1870-1901. The Shady Side of Fifty analyses these social shifts to reveal two different kinds of age anxiety: facing a new decade and dealing with extreme old age.
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