Volume 9, 2017
On Becoming a Stranger
This essay considers how normal aging (without disease or cognitive impairment) might over the long run be thought of as undermining to “thinking as usual” in a society undergoing rapid social change. Informed by the phenomenology of Alfred Schutz, the criteria for thinking as usual are considered. Derived from his essay “The Stranger,” these criteria were developed by Schutz about the experience of an immigrant stranger approaching a new culture (Schutz 1964a). Here it is argued that they might also help us better understand the experience of aging. It is suggested that in the context of social change older people can, under the right circumstances, feel like strangers in the culture they have known all their lives.