Aging is both something natural and biological that happens to almost all living things and beings, and something cultural and historical whose meaning changes across time and place. In other words, aging is something that can be counted and measured with a high degree of objectivity through quantitative methods, and it is also and at the same time something that is felt and subjectively experienced, something requiring qualitative methods of investigation.
Age is process and product: we age throughout the life course and we also possess an age which is culturally, socially and legally defined, e.g. infancy, childhood, youth, maturity, old age. Aging is and has been understood in terms of decline and catastrophe and in terms of growth and success, sometimes at the same points in time. Aging is both biological, chronological, institutional and cultural and very frequently these different understandings are in conflict, especially when categories like race, gender, disability, and class are put into the equation.
For example, how do the medical sciences, social policy, literature, the media, popular culture and the individual differ in their understanding of ‘successful ageing’? Aging, in short, calls for a refined conceptual vocabulary that is both informed by multidisciplinary approaches and that significantly informs interdisciplinary research on aging.