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Humanism, Meaning in Life and Aging Well (19-20)



Humanism, Meaning in Life and Aging Well

Course code




Year of study

Master year 1

Period of study

Period II


7,5 EC




Dr. Hanne Laceulle

Teaching staff)

Dr. Pien Bos, Dr. Hanne Laceulle, Prof. Dr. Aagje Swinnen

Learning Objectives

After finishing M1-HUM2 Traditions in Humanism 2 according to the applying standards the student will have:

  1. describe cultural-historical and cultural-philosophical perspectives about ‘aging well’ in modern Western society (1a; 2b; 2c; 3a; 4a)
  2. interpret current debates about aging from the standpoint of the humanist tradition of cultural critique (1b; 2b; 2c; 4a). 
  3. develop an independent, critical humanistic attitude towards existing theoretical perspectives about aging well (2b; 3a; 4a)
  4. translate acquired theoretical knowledge about aging well to the context of aging individual’s lives (2c; 3a; 4a)

Content Description




This course focuses on humanism, meaning in life and aging well. The humanist tradition that will be the primary focus of attention will be the tradition of cultural critique. From a cultural critical perspective, we will look at some fundamental questions regarding the possible meanings of aging and later life in past and contemporary societies. This will give the opportunity to combine reflection on fundamental, but abstract theoretical themes like humanism, meaning, and humanization, with concrete adaptations to the personal, cultural and societal domain of aging. In addressing these issues, we will take into account both historical-gerontological, cultural-gerontological and intersectional perspectives on aging. We will use the expertise developed in the UvH research group Humanism and Philosophy, which has focused on the theme of aging well since 2008, but the required insights have wider applicability to other groups that are marginalized and stereotyped. 





Literature study, plenary sessions, working sessions. The plenary sessions intend to provide and deepen knowledge and insight. The working sessions are intended for feedback and further elaboration and application of the acquired knowledge and insight.


  • An outline for the final paper halfway through the course (go/no go)
  • An interview assignment linked to a final paper (100%)

Literature and other prescribed sources

Required reading(there may be some adjustments in the mandatory literature – see course manual for definitive selection):

  • Edmondson, R. (2015). Ageing, insight and wisdom. Meaning and practice across the lifecourse. Bristol: Policy Press. Zelf aanschaffen.
  • Selected articles

 Additional recommended reading:
  • Baars, J., Aging and the Art of Living. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4214-0646-6
  • Baars, J., J. Dohmen, A. Grenier & C. Phillipson (ed.) Ageing, Meaning and Social Structure. Connecting Critical and Humanistic Gerontology. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2013. ISBN 978-144730-090-8
  • Chivers, S. (2011). The Silvering Screen: Old Age and Disability in Cinema, Toronto: University of Toronto Press
  • Gravange, P. (2013). The Becoming of Age: Cinematic visions of Mind, Body and Identity in Later Life. Jefferson, North Carolina & London: MacFarland.  
  • Gullette, M. M. (2004). Aged by culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  • Gullette, M. M. (2011). Agewise. Fighting the new ageism in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  • Holstein, M., Women in Late Life. Critical Perspectives on Gender and Age. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. ISBN 978-1-4422-2287--8
  • Settersten , R.A. Jr., Lives in Time and Place: The Problems and Promises of Developmental Science. Amityville, NY: Baywood, 1999. ISBN 0-89503-200-7·
  • Thane, P., Old Age in English History: Past Experiences, Present Issues. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-820382-9
  • Twigg, J. & W. Martin (2015). Routledge handbook of cultural gerontology. London/New York: Routledge. 
  • Walker, A., The New Science of Ageing. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-44731-467-7