To better understand the social nature of dementia, it is important to understand its cultural significance and the role that it plays in re-articulating later life. In this new terrain of ageing it may be worth exploring how the idea of the fourth age can help us better understand the nature of dementia and the way in which its cultural role affects both social and health policies. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
Gilleard and Higgs (2010) argue that the fourth age now serves as a “cultural imaginary” of the deepest and darkest aspects of old age and that dementia figures prominently in fashioning it.
The scope for exploring dementia as a component of the cultural imaginary of the fourth age has already been demonstrated through the small but growing number of studies that have explored the fear of dementia.
An avenue for further exploration is the distinction between a fear of losing one's mind (as in the pre-modern meaning of dementia) and the fear of losing one's place (as in the loss of status associated with dependency). Arguably the former exercises a greater influence than the latter, and raises the question of distinguishing between narratives and practices that sustain the mind of the person with dementia and those that sustain the position of the person with dementia as fellow citizen or fellow countryman or woman.
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