Aging Well as Activism: Advancing the Mexican Social Body through Individually Successful Aging


  • Emily Wentzell University of Iowa



Activism, Healthy Aging, Mexico, Preventative Healthcare, Successful Aging


In contrast to discourses of “successful aging” which pathologize and individualize change in later life, this case study of a retired Mexican couple highlights the pleasurable, political, and collective aspects of aging.  Here, I analyze the narratives of a couple who found aging “well” fulfilling in part because it served as an intervention into societal-level problems.  I argue that their activist form of aging was enabled by local cultural understandings of the Mexican populace as a biologically and socially interrelated whole. They hoped that the Mexican social body would follow a particular life course – of maturing toward modernity – and they sought to model and promote such maturation in their own later lives.  This included promoting a health “culture of prevention,” living out self-consciously modern forms of gender and family, and active community participation.  I assert that their happiness in older age, including their ability to cope with local crises of violence and corruption, stemmed partly from their belief that the attributes and activities which enhanced their own lives simultaneously served as activist interventions into the broader populace’s ills.  This discussion of the context-specific ways one Mexican couple saw their efforts to live good later lives as contributing meaningfully to societal change over time highlights the need to understand aging and later life as political arenas with collective rather than merely individual import.






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