Anna I. Corwin is an Assistant Professor in the anthropology department at Saint Mary’s College of California specializing in the fields of linguistic and medical anthropology. Anna’s research examines the intersections between aging, embodiment, well being, social interaction, and language. After completing her PhD in anthropology in 2014 at the University of California, Los Angeles, Anna spent two years at Stanford University as a Thinking Matters Fellow.
Anna’s research project, entitled Prayer and Care: How Elderly Nuns Sustain Well-Being seeks to understand why some individuals age more “successfully” than others, setting them apart from the majority of their contemporaries. Epidemiologists have identified American Catholic nuns as a group that lives longer, healthier, and more actively, experiencing less anxiety, pain, and depression than their lay counterparts. While contributing factors such as education, nutrition, physical activity, optimistic outlook, and spiritual and social support have been identified through surveys and medical examinations, Anna’s research is the first to document the everyday communicative practices (such as prayer and social support) that contribute to the quality of life these elderly nuns report.
Anna’s research is based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in a Midwestern Catholic convent where the elderly nuns report above-average quality of life. Her work identifies how everyday linguistic practices contribute to the nuns’ well-being. For example, a portion of her work examines how the nuns’ prayers are composed to garner assistance for peers in distress and how care provided by the elderly nuns offers a sense of purpose to both the caregiver and recipient of care. By providing close analysis of the daily activities that contribute to the nuns’ documented pattern of successful aging, Anna’s work contributes new insights to a growing literature on successful aging in the fields of anthropology, gerontology, public health, and end-of-life care.