'Extreme Forms of Aging:' The Case of Sam Berns

Julia Velten


By discussing the aging disorder progeria as depicted in the HBO documentary Life According to Sam, this paper argues that extraordinary forms of aging allow us to gain new insights into the cultural construction of age. The paper explores the ways in which age is culturally constructed through physical and behavioral aspects. The condition of progeria, puts individuals in between these categories, providing an angle to look at the way subcategories of age influence a person’s perception about age and aging in a given social context. Moreover, the essay connects methods from age studies as well as disability studies and suggests a dialogue between the two fields. Progeria, causing the body to age at a tremendously accelerated rate, serves as a suitable point of inquiry. On the one hand, it is an aging disorder at the junction between disability and age while, on the other, it challenges normative assumptions of age and aging by juxtaposing different subcategories of age within a single individual.


Progeria; Age Studies; Disability Studies; Documentary Film; Cultural Constructions of Age; Extreme Aging

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5283/copas.278


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