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Gerontologist. 2014 Apr;54(2):258-67. doi: 10.1093/geront/gns203. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

Dementia as a cultural metaphor.

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*Address correspondence to Hannah Zeilig, BA, LCF, University of the Arts, London, 20 John Prince's Street, London W1G 0BJ, UK. E-mail:


This article contributes to debates about the category "dementia," which until recently has been dominated by biomedical models. The perspectives of critical gerontology are pertinent for extending knowledge about dementia and guiding this analysis. These perspectives encourage examination of cultural and historical influences and thus question how societies have constructed and defined dementia. This article queries the stories told about dementia and the language that we use to tell these stories. Central to the article is an analysis of some of the stories about dementia that are contained within and framed by contemporary culture. A number of films, TV documentaries, news reports, theatre, memoirs, novels, and poems that portray some of the experiences associated with dementia are interrogated. These representations are examined as they either perpetrate or challenge stereotypes about living with dementia. Analysis of these representations demonstrates the sociocultural construction of dementia and the extent to which dementia is a diachronic phenomenon. Above all, the article considers (a) the social and political dimensions of dementia, (b) the ways in which the metaphors persistently used to explain dementia shape our consciousness about this condition, and


Alzheimer’s disease; Critical gerontology; Cultural stories; Discourse; Representation

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