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Hastings Center News

Understanding How Aging Societies Think About Dementia

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded The Hastings Center a collaborative research grant for The Meanings of Dementia: Interpreting Cultural Narratives of Aging Societies. This project will produce a special supplement to the Hastings Center Report of 18 new essays analyzing shared ideas and values concerning dementia that circulate in the United States and other aging societies.

Nancy Berlinger, a Hastings Center research scholar, will co-direct the project with Erin Gentry Lamb, a professor of medical humanities and an associate professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The editorial team also includes Liz Bowen, the Rice Family Fellow in Bioethics and the Humanities at The Hastings Center; Kate de Medeiros, a professor of gerontology and sociology at Miami University; and Janelle Taylor, professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto.

“The support of the NEH will enable us to explore how diverse groups in aging societies make meaning out of their perceptions, observations, experiences, and values concerning dementia, creating cultural narratives that inform social attitudes and public policy,” said Berlinger. “This project brings together exceptional contemporary scholarship from health humanities, social gerontology, critical dementia studies, disability studies, care theory, history of medicine, and other fields. We look forward to learning together to understand how concepts such as dementia-friendliness and place-making can animate new modes of community life that include people living with dementia or providing dementia care.”

The NEH supports collaborative and individual humanities research, preservation of historic collections, humanities exhibitions and documentaries, and educational programs for teachers. The Hastings Center project was one of 226 humanities projects nationwide funded in NEH’s third and last round of funding for fiscal year 2022.