Main Article Content
Consumer culture has placed the ageing body in a dilemma of representation. Physical appearance has become increasingly important as a symbol of identity, and at the same time society idealizes youth. This study explores visual ageing empirically. By using photographs of older persons (70+) as starting point, it is explored how visual age is assessed and interpreted. It is shown that informants read age in a spread of stages and categories. Main age indicators are biological markers: skin, eyes, and hair colour, but supplemented by vigour, style, and grooming. Furthermore, in-depth interviews indicate that visual age is mainly interpreted into categories and moral regulations rooted in early modernity. Subsequently the question of a postmodern perspective of visual ageing is discussed in this article. The empirical findings in the study question a postmodern fluidity of visual signs – at least when the concern is signs of ageing.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Since 2020 the International Journal of Ageing and Later Life uses a Creative Commons: Attribution license, which allows users to distribute the work and to reform or build upon it without the author's permission. Full reference to the author must be given.
Baudrillard, J. (1983). Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e).
Bauman, Z. ((1995)1998). Life in Fragments. Essays in Postmodern Morality. Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwell.
Berry D. S. & McArthur L. Z. (1985). Some Components and Conse¬quences of a Babyface. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 48: 312–323. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.112
Biggs, S. (1997). Choosing Not To Be Old? Masks, Bodies and Identity Management in Later Life. Ageing and Society 17: 553–570, Sept. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X97006600
Biggs, S. & Powell, J. L (2001). A Foucauldian Analysis of Old Age and the Power of Social Welfare. Journal of Aging & Social Policy 12(2): 93–113. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1300/J031v12n02_06
Burt, M. D. & Perrett, D. I. (1995). Perception of age in adult Caucasian male faces: computer graphic manipulation of shape and colour information. Proceedings of The Royal Society (259): 137–143.
Bytheway, B. & Johnson, J. (1998). The sight of age. In S. Nettleton & J. Watson (eds.), The Body in Everyday Life (pp. 243–257). London and New York: Routledge.
Christensen, K., Iachina, M., Rexbye, H., Tommassini, C., Frederiksen, H. McGue, M. & Vaupel, J. W. (2004). “Looking old for your age” – Genetics and Mortality. Epidemiology (15): 251–252. [Read this artcile]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1097/01.ede.0000112211.11416.a6
Cole, T. R. (1997). The Journey of Life. A Cultural History of Aging in America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Deffenbacher, K. A., Vetter, T., Johanson, J. & O’Toole, A.J. (1998). Facial aging, attractiveness, and distinctiveness. Perception 27(10): 1233–1243. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1068/p271233
Erkerdt, D.J. (1986): The Busy Ethic: Moral Continuity Between Work and Retirement. The Gerontologist 26(3): 239–244.DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/26.3.239
Fairhurst, E. (1998). ”Growing old gracefully” as opposed to “mutton dressed as lamb”. The social construction of recognising older women. In: S. Nettleton and J. Watson (eds.), The Body in Everyday Life (pp. 258–275). London and New York: Routledge.
Featherstone, M. (1995). The Body in Consumer Culture. In: M. Featherstone, M. Hepworth & B. Turner (eds.) The Body. Social Process and Cultural Theory (pp. 170–196). London: Sage Publications.
Featherstone, M. & Hepworth, M. (1989). Ageing and old age: reflections on the postmodern life course. In B. Bytheway, T. Kiel, P. Allat & A. Bryman (eds.). Becoming and Being Old (pp. 143–157). London: Sage Publications.
Featherstone, M. & Hepworth, M. (1991). Images of Ageing. In J. Bond, P. Coleman, P. & S. Peace (eds.), Ageing in Society. An introduction to Social Gerontology (pp.304–332). London: Sage Publications.
George, P. A. & Hole, G. J. (1998). The influence of feature-based information in the age processing of unfamiliar faces. Perception (27): 295–312. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1068/p270295
Giddens, A. ((1991) 1999). Modernitet og selvidentitet. Selvet og samfundet under sen-moderniteten [Modernity and self-identity. Self and society in the late modern age]. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag.
Gilleard, C. & Higgs, P. (2000). Cultures of Ageing. Self, citizen and the body. Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd.
Gubrium, Jaber F. (1973). The Myth of the Golden Years. A Socio-Environmental Theory of Aging. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas Publisher.
Gubrium, Jaber F. (1986). Old Timers and Alzheimer’s: The Descriptive Organisation of Senility. Greenwich, Connecticut and London: JAI Press.
Hens, R. (1991). Perceiving age and attractiveness in facial photographs. Journal of Applied Social Psychology (21): 933–946. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.1991.tb00451.x
Hepworth, M. (1995). Positive ageing. What is the message? In R. Bunton, S. Nettleton and R. Burrows (eds.): The Sociology of Health Promotion. Critical Analyses of Consumption, Lifestyle and Risk (176–190). London: Routledge.
Hockey, J. & James, A. (2003). Social Identities Across the Life Course. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hummert M. L. (1993). Age and typicality judgments of stereotypes of the elderly: perceptions of elderly vs. young adults. International journal of ageing and human development 37 (3): 217–26.
Hummert, M. L., Gartstka, T. A., Shaner, J. L. & Strahm, S. (1995). Judgements About Stereotypes of The Elderly. Attitudes, Age Associations, and Typicality Tatings of Young, Middle-Aged, and Elderly Adults. Research on Aging. (17)2: 168–189. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0164027595172004
Katz, S. (2000). Busy bodies: activity, aging and the management of everyday life. Journal of Aging Studies 14(2): 135–138. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0890-4065(00)80008-0
Katz, S. & Marshall, B. (2003). New sex for old: lifestyle, consumerism and the ethics of aging well. Journal of Aging Studies 17(1): 3–16. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0890-4065(02)00086-5
Kvale, S. (2002). InterView. En introduction til det kvalitative forskningsinterview [InterView. An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing]. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag.
Marshall, B. L & Katz, S.(2002). Forever functional: sexual fitness and the ageing male body. Body & Society 8(4): 43–70. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1357034X02008004003
Powell, J. L. & Longino, C. F. Jr (2002). Postmodernism versus modernism: rethinking theoretical tensions in social gerontology. Journal of Aging and Identity 7(4):219–226. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020757420116
Rexbye, H., Petersen, I., Iachina, M., Mortensen, J., McGue, M., Vaupel, J. W. & Christensen, K. (2005). Hair loss among elderly men: etiology and impact on perceived age. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences 60A(8): 1077–1082.
Rexbye, H., Petersen, I., Johansen, M., Klitkou, L., Jeune, B. & Christensen, K. (2006). Influence of environmental factors on facial ageing. Age and Ageing 35(2): 110–115. [Read this artcile]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afj031
Schwaiger, L. (2006). To be forever young? Towards reframing corporeal subjectivity in maturity. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life 1(1): 11–41. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.3384/ijal.1652-8670.061111
Sheretz, E. F. & Hess, S. P. (1993). Stated Age. New England Journal of Medicine 329(4): 281–282. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM199307223290419
Solem, P. E. (2005). Alderisme, aldring og social deltakelse [Ageism, ageing and social participation]. Nordisk Psykologi 57 (1): 47–63.
Thane, P. (ed.) (2005): The Long History of Old Age. London: Thames & Hudson.
Twigg, J. (2007). Clothing, age and the body: a critical review. Ageing & Society 27: 285–305. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X06005794
Wernick, M. & Manaster, G. J. (1984). Age and the perception of age and attractiveness. The Gerontologist 24: 408–414.
Woodward, K. (1991). Ageing and Its Discontents. Freud and Other Fictions. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Öberg, P. & Tornstam, L.(1999). Body images among men and women of different ages. Ageing and Society 19: 629–644. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X99007394
Öberg, P. & Tornstam, L. (2001). Youthfulness and fitness identity ideals for all ages? Journal of Aging and Identity 6(1): 15–29. [Read this article]DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009524612420