Age-related chronic diseases have been the subject of investigations by both biological and cultural anthropologists. Research within biological anthropology has focused on the population burden and distribution of chronic diseases including related genetic and environmental risk factors, and the occurrence of these diseases in paleopopulations and in non-human primates (Crews, 1990; Crews & Gerber, 1994; DeRousseau, 1994). Studies from a sociocultural framework, on the other hand, have examined older individuals' perceptions and meanings of the experience of chronic disease (e.g., Kaufmann, 1988; Silverman, Musa, Kirsch, & Siminoff, 1999; Silverman, Smola, & Musa, 2000), their psychological and behavioral strategies for self-management of a chronic condition (e.g., Mitteness, 1987), and cultural values and activities related to the care of chronically ill aged persons (e.g., Gubrium & Sankar, 1994; Henderson, 1990). Because a detailed description of the range of chronic diseases of aging is not possible here, this review focuses on two prototypical diseases of aging—osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease.
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