Within about twenty years, the United States will pass a monumental threshold: this country will have more citizens over 65 than it does under the age of 18. Part of a massive demographic transition that is taking place across the Global North, the aging of the boomer generation will present challenges for retirement financing, healthcare, and political economy. Medical research has already pivoted towards this new reality; humanities-centered scholarship has begun focusing on aging as well.
This workshop hopes to bring historical thinking to bear further on this problem. While the history of old age is a growing field in the discipline, scholars have mostly examined aging in the context of Western capitalist societies. This workshop will bring together a number of early career academics and graduate students to discuss their research on old age under socialism. There has been a great deal of interest, in recent years, in how socialist societies imagined gender, healthcare, and the family. This is granting us a much fuller picture of these societies than what was possible during the Cold War, when analysis focused squarely on themes of political oppression and resistance. And yet we know next to nothing about the socialist style of aging: the imagination of age and the policy apparatus focusing on the elderly.