They analyzed images of aging conveyed in 76 songs whose lyrics
invoke the topic. Most images were negative, they found.
“We’re aware that the number of people over age 60 will probably
double by 2050, and we’re very keen that that aging experience is a
positive one,” said lead author Jacinta Kelly of Anglia Ruskin
University in Cambridge, U.K.
In music, aging is often associated with dependency and frailty and
physical decline rather than with attractiveness, Kelly told Reuters
Health by phone.
“What we’re trying to get across is that this kind of bitterness or
hostility is promoted or conveyed and it’s not a trivial thing to
explore,” she said. “You can absorb negativity and it can have
consequences for your health.”
Harboring hostile attitudes toward aging can have negative effects
on cardiac health, while a positive outlook can actually improve
longevity by five to seven years, she said.
The researchers searched lyrics databases for English language songs
relating to age or aging, settling on 76 relevant songs, mostly from
the U.S. and U.K., with an average of nine songs recorded each
decade between the 1930s and today. The number of relevant songs
increased sharply in the 2000s.
They found three major categories of depictions of aging: “contented
and celebrated,” “pitiful and petulant” or “frail and flagging.”
Only 21 songs, including Dusty Springfield’s “Goin’ Back” and Bob
Dylan’s “Forever Young” took a positive view of aging, while 55 took
a negative view, according to the results in the Journal of Advanced
The rest characterized older people as self-pitying and lacking in
self-esteem, as in Kris Kristofferson’s “Feeling Mortal” and Leonard
Cohen’s “Because Of” or with fear and loneliness, as in Celine
Dion’s “All By Myself.”
The study “demonstrates one aspect of ageism in society and in
popular culture,” said Gerard M. Fealy of the University College
Dublin College of Health Sciences, who was not part of the new
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“We tend to identify older people with negative terms,” Fealy told
Reuters Health by phone. “And with chronological age as opposed to
who they are as people.”
Our society "valorizes youth" and marginalizes the aged, which can
even shape public and social policy, he said, citing, for example,
recent suggestions by economists in Ireland that older people whose
children have left home could be incentivized to sell their homes to
help ease the housing crisis, making more space available for
“I would never wish to censor music lyrics, not in any way,” Fealy
said. “But we can create a counter discourse to redress some of the
“Most older people had a past that was interesting, exciting, and
valuable,” and most young people, if they’re lucky, will one day be
old, Fealy said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1ZugnST Journal of Advanced Nursing, online
February 24, 2016.
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