American Corner Innsbruck

    Lecture by Professor Thomas R. Cole

    Starting this semester's activities organized by the American Corner Innsbruck (ACI), distinguished Professor Thomas R. Cole gave a talk about


    on Friday, October 12, 2007. The organizers were delighted that almost 50 people followed the invitation to the semester openining event.


    After welcoming words by Mag. Lucia Blasl, Thomas R. Cole fascinated with his considerations and ideas about health care issues in the U.S. and generational justice. His talk was framed by two stories illustrating generational conflicts and awareness for the appreciation of other, and especially older, generations. In his talk, Prof. Cole dealt with the growing burden of long-time care in the United States. Within the last decades, life expectancy has risen for almost 20 years. "In a blink of an eye you'll be old," Prof. Cole said in order to promote the idea of a greater human life circle and reminding the audience that old people are our future selves.

    The question of generational justice was first raised in the 1980s. When studies showed that incomparably more money is spent on high-tech health care for very old people than for younger generations, the image was established that older people were selfish and took away important health care and research money for younger generations. Aware of this problem, Prof. Cole is sure that bankruptcy of social security will not happen and that it is an image created to frighten people. After an elaboration on the issue that we will have to cope with the fact that we stay younger longer as well as the fact that we stay older longer, Prof. Cole stresses the importance of ethical re-considerations of health care issues and concludes that there are two essential things to avoid: 1) active euthanasia and 2) older people crowding out the importance of the young. The lively discussion following the event only underlined the importance of the issues raised by Prof. Cole.

    Thomas R. Cole is the Beth and Toby Grossman Professor and Director of the McGovern Center for Health, Humanities, and the Human Spirit at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
    He is also a Professor of Humanities in the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. Dr. Cole graduated from Yale University (B.A. Philosophy), Wesleyan University (M.A., History, 1975) and the University of Rochester, (Ph.D., History, 1981). Dr. Cole has published many articles and several books on the history of aging and humanistic gerontology. His book The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America (Cambridge University Press, 1992) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

    The U.S. Embassy kindly granted the opportunity to have Prof. Cole speak in Innsbruck. The ACI owes special thanks to Cultural Affairs Specialist Dr. Alice M. Burton for making this event possible.

    (text: Claudia Schwarz)

    American Corner Innsbruck
    Department of American Studies
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