Changing Perspectives on Healthy Aging

A Series of Public Lectures Sponsored by the New York Academy of Medicine’s Section on the History of Medicine and Public Health

Part I. “To Conquer Confusion: Aging, Culture, and Concepts of Dementia”

Jesse F. Ballenger, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

Thursday, February 05, 2009

5:30PM – 7:00PM

As part of its 2008-2009 public lecture series, the Academy’s Section on the History of Medicine and Public Health presents five talks examining some of the profound ways in which basic expectations about aging and the aged have shifted in the last century.

On Thursday, February 5, medical historian Jesse F. Ballenger will open the mini-series by exploring a fundamental paradox that Alzheimer’s disease presents. In one sense, Alzheimer’s has been one of the most clear and stable psychiatric categories in history. It was one of the first and still one of the very rare instances in which psychiatry managed to correlate a well-defined clinical syndrome — global deterioration of cognitive ability — with a clear and demonstrable brain pathology — the senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, and this basic clinical-pathological entity has remained essentially intact since it was assembled by Alois Alzheimer more than a century ago. But in another sense, Alzheimer’s has been one the most problematic of disease entities, because researchers and clinicians interested in the disorder have struggled to understand whether it should be regarded as a disease or as an extreme variant of normal aging processes. Changes in the way that medicine has approached the disease/aging conundrum in the concept of Alzheimer’s disease reflect broader changes in social and cultural attitudes toward aging and the elderly, and have had important if largely unexamined political and moral consequences.

Jesse F. Ballenger is author of Self, Senility and Alzheimer’s Disease in Modern America: A History (Johns Hopkins Press, 2006). He also co-edited with Peter J. Whitehouse and Konrad Maurer Concepts of Alzheimer Disease: Biological, Clinical and Cultural Perspectives (Johns Hopkins, 2000), and with Whitehouse, Constantine Lyketsos, Peter Rabins and Jason Karlawish Do We Have a Pill for That? Critical Questions about Drug Development for Dementia (Johns Hopkins, in press). He is assistant professor in the Science, Technology and Society program at Penn State University.

This event is open to the public. To register, visit .

Save the Dates: Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Changing Perspectives on Healthy Aging, Part II: John W. Rowe, “Development of the Concept of Successful Aging”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Changing Perspectives on Healthy Aging, Part III: Linda Fried, “Preserving and Enhancing Social Utility Among the Aging.”

Monday, April 06, 2009

Changing Perspectives on Healthy Aging, Part IV: Elizabeth Siegel Watkins, “The Estrogen Elixir: Women, Hormone Replacement, and the Predicament of Aging”

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Changing Perspectives on Healthy Aging, Part V: Charles Rosenberg, speaking on The Historian’s Perspective on Concepts of Aging and Health

For more information about the lecture series sponsored by the Section on the History of Medicine and Public Health, please visit our website at , write [email protected] , or call Arlene Shaner at 212-822-7313

Historical programs at NYAM are supported by the Friends of the Rare Book Room. Please join the Friends! Download a membership form at