Images of Aging: Cultural Representations of Later Life

Images of Aging: Cultural Representations of Later Life
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Advertisement Hide. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Bell, John. The Gerontologist, 32 3 , — Google Scholar. De aeldre og seksualiteten; mediemyter og realiteter. Copenhagen: RUC.

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Dagens Nyheter. Davis, Richard.

Images of Aging: Cultural Representations of Later Life (Book).

Here, the body becomes a key site for the politics of age. The second element is historico-social, involving the assertion that significant shift has occurred in the nature of society that means culture now plays an unprecedented role in the constitution of social identities and realities. The first is epistemological, reflecting the impact of theorizing that has its roots in poststructuralism and allied developments in feminism, queer theory, and postmodernism generally Roseneil, By reminding researchers that consumer culture dominates almost all sectors of late modern life, and by introducing notions of consumer culture to ageing studies, their work has provided a starting point for recognising that older groups are not simply disengaged from consumer culture but heavily defined by it. The body: Social process and cultural theory, , We would particularly like to acknowledge the help and support of Mike Hepworth who has worked jointly with Mike Featherstone on images of aging for over twenty years now and has helped to develop an Archive of Images of Ageing at the Centre for the Study of Adult Life.

Lexington: Lexington Books. Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger. London: Routledge. Original work published Google Scholar. Eklund, Charlotte. Stockholm: Carlssons. Featherstone, Mike.

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The Body in Consumer Culture. Turner Eds. There are, however, initial attempts in this direction.

The Sexuality of Elderly People on Film—Visual Limitations

What these studies tell us is that with respect to visual representations of old age, it is impossible to discern clear-cut trends as to whether age was held in high esteem or disparaged in the different historical epochs. On the contrary, the pictures testify to different, simultaneous semantics about old age: the emaciated body of an old hermit evokes an ascetic life, highly esteemed in the Christian doctrine of salvation, whereas a similar depiction of a woman of around the same age can be read as an embodiment of vice.

Another observation emerging from studies on pictorial representations of age, then, is their massive gender-specific coding. A research alliance between art history and gender studies would be particularly productive here. Historically focused studies of images are able to assess and extrapolate the visual validity of the theses on gender put forward by gerontology approaches informed by the humanities. Gender difference remains a pivotal category for images of aging in the art and visual culture of modernity and the present age.

Furthermore, as the physical appearance of age in terms of a new dependency on body technologies and beautification comes into view Mehlmann and Ruby , so, too, does the significance of the various visual media deployed in the production, reception, and distribution of images of aging Kampmann et al. Not least, the de- constructivist perspective on age, often explicitly presented in contemporary artworks, also influences research. Scholars active in the fields of media studies and cultural studies are proving especially prolific in analyzing contemporary images of aging in art and visual culture.

Whereas art history often regards the study of visual media like film, television, or advertising as merely an extension of its core task of analyzing artworks, the aforementioned disciplines focus on popular culture. One future research perspective is to think of the images present in the mass media and those produced artistically in conjunction, to discuss and analyze their confluence: while mass media images captivate primarily thanks to how they pervade society, it is the historical-cultural imprint on our visual memory that carries weight with artistic images.

Intensifying interdisciplinary exchange among art history, archaeology, and all disciplines informed by gender studies, media studies, and cultural studies would be desirable. Starting from this polarity, in an empirical study Rexbye and Povlsen have sought to identify the concrete visual signs of aging, the cultural markers and symbols of identity that provoke such judgements.

But unlike Rexbye and Polvsen, who draw on Thane, suspect, the negative image of the sexually active older woman did not come into existence in the seventeenth century Rexbye and Polvsen ; on the contrary—in visual culture, at least, it has a much longer tradition, one going back to antiquity Zanker.

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The image of vain and lustful old women is especially popular in the Baroque period. The work shows a woman who, assisted by two servants, is sprucing herself up in front of a mirror.

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Expensive fabrics, elaborate draping, abundant pearl jewelry, and striking accessories like feathers and fans, not to mention the flacons of cosmetics and perfume, testify to an infatuation with trying to look beautiful, using the surrounding wealth and luxury to pamper vanity. But the image of a beautiful, rich woman grooming herself is ruptured, for the body depicted is covered with the markings of age and all the effort of applying makeup and adhering to fashion seems to come to nothing.

Numerous details emphasize that beauty is tied to youthfulness, while the idea of beauty in old age is completely discredited. With the scene staged in this way, the old woman is presented as a sexual creature but also mocked. Unlike the fresh flowers in her hands, her body has long withered and become infertile.

Indeed, cross-cultural research identifies how understandings of dementia as either a natural part of the aging process or as a result of brain disease are culturally shaped [ 6 , 7 ]. Similar to the growth in diagnosable mental illnesses that occurred at the turn of the twentieth century [ 8 ], dementia represents an increasingly wide compendium descriptor for many different effects [ 9 ]. Differences in the ways in which dementia is conceptualised may also be shaped by social location.

Although work on social class and dementia tends to be restricted to differences in associated risk factors for developing the condition or different levels of access to diagnosis, care, and support, there is a growing recognition that social class identities have a significant role to play in the ways in which dementia is both experienced and conceptualised [ 10 ]. This body of research not only highlights the diverse ways in which dementia is experienced but also suggests that the cultural meanings attached to dementia—even within societies—are also not universal [ 11 ].

Meanings of dementia are interpreted, embodied, or resisted by people in their social contexts, and these processes are shaped according to their social location gender, social class, and ethnicity and their individual biography [ 12 — 14 ]. It is in this tradition that researchers are interested in studying the proliferation of stories that seek to represent what dementia is, what it is like to have it, or what it is like to live with those who do.

legutel.com/includes/126/3743.php In Euro-American cultures at least, this proliferation of dementia stories has been reflected in mainstream press and television news as well as in works of fiction across TV, film, and literature e. Accounts of dementia, particularly from politicians and in the press, tend to evoke frightening images, presenting it as a kind of living death for its sufferers—the body remains but the person is lost [ 17 ]. Such images include associating people with AD as zombies, creating a reaction of revulsion and fear.

The language of loss and determinism pervade these dominant cultural representations, describing the growing incidents of dementia amongst populations as a rising tide, suggesting an unstoppable force. Running in parallel to these stories are representations of hope—not for the possibility of living well with the condition, but instead to eradicate it.

These stories tend to focus on a potential miracle cure that might prevent cognitive decline as we age.

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This reframes the condition as something amenable to individual behaviours and choices and thus a failing of those afflicted to age successfully—a judgement that may unevenly befall on the most economically and physically vulnerable. Rather than depicting dementia only in terms of a diseased brain, and personhood as only associated with this rather impoverished understanding, dementia is also portrayed as disordering identities and ways of relating to others that transform, rather than just obliterate, the person. Thus, the film helps to trouble and challenge a discourse of waging a war on dementia.

Dementia in art has also been used as a vehicle to explore some fundamental existential questions about what forms the basis of our being in the world. Through this relationship, the film raises interesting questions about the connections between memory, identity, and humanity: what is it that makes us human? Iris, Frank, and, more recently, Alice from the novel and film Still Alice , [ 27 ], embody the contradictions that make up contemporary images of dementia.

On the one hand, they reflect our fears of obliteration, the tragedy of a gradual chipping away of our humanity; while on the other hand, we are met with characters who remain present as a moral force, who feel pleasure and pain, who have emotional responses and connections to their social and material worlds. Perhaps the effects of the disease are less of a tragedy than the torment of our own contradictions.

Images of Aging

For example, at the end of the film Iris , we see her husband and her friends accepting that she is someone different, with Iris herself happy in a new environment where she is able to be the person she has become rather than who she once was. There are many ways of unlocking and challenging the assumptions that underpin cultural understandings of dementia, as many of these depictions in film and literature are beginning to do.

There are also worldwide programs pressing ways to destigmatise dementia e. In these ways, alongside biomedical and public health programs for addressing whether there are disease processes that underpin dementia and which can be remedied, different communities are finding alternative ways of being in the world that are more accepting and embracing of the kinds of disruptions that dementia can produce.

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