Aging in Non-Human Primate Society: What Relevance for Social Gerontology?
Keywords:Non-human Primates, Kinship, Social aging, Social bonds, Social disengagement, Rank and Status
Wild animals were once thought not to age, as their deaths were viewed as the consequences of constant exposure to the perennial risks of nature. Studies of non-human aging were largely confined to biological investigations, focusing upon short-lived species such as fruit flies, mice and nematodes. Over recent decades, this has changed, and studies of non-human aging have begun to investigate aging taking place in social contexts. The present paper reviews such work on social aging in non-human primate societies. Four themes were evident in seeking potential parallels between human and non-human social aging. These were social disengagement, social bonds or social capital, status rank and dominance, and kinship ties. No studies were found that had explored parent caregiving. The lack of clear evidence that agedness is perceived and recognised within non-human primate groups suggests that most age-associated behavioral changes are at best demi-regularities that map quite imprecisely upon social aging in human societies. However as non-human primate societies are becoming gradually confined to areas and environments established through human agency and human institutions, it is possible to speculate that non-human primate old age will become more common if less natural and as a result, perhaps more akin to social aging in human societies.
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