Dementia as a cultural metaphor

Hannah Zeilig

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    169 Citations (Scopus)


    This article contributes to debates about the category “dementia,” which until recently has been dominated by biomedical models. The perspectives of critical gerontology are pertinent for extending knowledge about dementia and guiding this analysis. These perspectives encourage examination of cultural and historical influences and thus question how societies have constructed and defined dementia. This article queries the stories told about dementia and the language that we use to tell these stories. Central to the article is an analysis of some of the stories about dementia that are contained within and framed by contemporary culture. A number of films, TV documentaries, news reports, theatre, memoirs, novels, and poems that portray some of the experiences associated with dementia are interrogated. These representations are examined as they either perpetrate or challenge stereotypes about living with dementia. Analysis of these representations demonstrates the sociocultural construction of dementia and the extent to which dementia is a diachronic phenomenon. Above all, the article considers (a) the social and political dimensions of dementia, (b) the ways in which the metaphors persistently used to explain dementia shape our consciousness about this condition, and (c) the extent to which dementia is an inherent part of contemporary life.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)258-267
    Number of pages10
    JournalThe Gerontologist
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014

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