Aging, Health, and Behavior. Ory, M.G., Abeles, R.P., Lipman, P.D. (Eds). Newbury Park: Sage, 1992; 377 pages, paperbound.
This book is divided into five parts, each reflecting and effectively analyzing the progress of research in the combined areas of health, behavior, and aging. One of the key features that is held constant throughout the book is the espousal by the authors of the complexity and variability that is inherent in individuals, cohorts, and societies as they age. In addition, other multifaceted, compounding variables are considered. These include - but are not limited to- biologic, economic, cognitive, biopsychosocial, attitudinal, and motivational factors, as well as a life-course perspective.
It is posited that understanding the interaction between these variables over time is important in determining how and why individuals and cohorts age differently. This may lead researchers to clues that are essential in determining what internal and external triggers accelerate or diminish the responses that impede or otherwise affect aging, health-seeking and self-care behaviors, health promotion, disease prevention, coping with stressors, and living with chronic illnesses.
This book clearly articulates the understanding that aging, as well as the environment in which one ages, is dynamic and everchanging in nature. This new paradigm is often lost in current research, which views aging and its related factors as less than continually changing. This paradigm encourages the undertaking of inquiries that, although difficult to analyze using popular statistical methods because of the many confounding variables, would yield rich and diversified data from a multidisciplinary perspective. Moreover, this type of research would be useful in correctly projecting the type of services that will be required for those who are aging qualitatively and quantitatively at different rates, although at the same time, in our society.
This research should be geared towards asking questions and seeking answers that will address the needs of the elderly: their environmental, biologic, and social support systems. It should yield information that is directly applicable in developing realistic health, social, and public policies that provide for the appropriate multivaried levels of assistance and resources necessary for survival.
This book is packed with useful information and references for those who wish to know the who, what, why, and how of research in health, aging/ and behavior. It enlightens the reader not only about past research, but also about where research must be directed in the future. The authors take a critical look at antecedent studies, to inform the reader on how this research may be strengthened. The authors have combed the literature and analyzed many studies to come up with a new imperative. They successfully pull apart the research methodologies and statistical techniques involved and describe the limitations of each. It is not so much an exercise in finding fallibility as it is a serious attempt to stimulate new ideas and give hope to the difficult task of identifying how research might be improved to benefit the elderly.
I strongly recommend this book to practitioners, educators, advocates, policy-makers, researchers, and students of multidisciplinary backgrounds who have a serious interest in gerontological research. Although gender, cultural, and spiritual dimensions are not discussed at great length, the message is clear: the door is wide open for research that encompasses these domains as well.