Remembering My Hat

21st March 2011

Pictures of ageing

I’m trying out an image-searching Activity I’m planning for K319. The students are going to do a tutorial from the OU library on searching for images on the internet and using them legally (creative commons and suchlike). I just need to find some search terms that are likely to work for them, so they can apply their new skills to a topic of relevance to the bit of the course they will be studying that week.

My first search of Flikr, limited to creative commons licensed images, used the search term ‘ageing’. This is not going to work as most of the pictures that come up are nothing to do with ageing (or not that I can see, anyway). But there were one or two lovely images which I am posting here in case I want to use them again:

(cc) magnificentfrigatebird

(cc) quentinsf

(cc) ectopiclight

(cc) ma neeks

(cc) The Nice Flavor

I think I’d better stop, I’m getting carried away. So many lovely, lovely images!

Actually, I think maybe this Activity will work, if I reconceptualise it  a bit. I was thinking of getting them to choose lots of images of something and make some generalisations about them. For that, a search term that gets lots of suitable hits would be a big help. But I think it would work just as well if I asked them to find just one image that they find compelling/interesting/informative about ageing, and then get them to articulate what it is about it that made them pick it. So I will try it myself based on these images.

Ah, I immediately discover that I’d choose different ones for different adjectives.

Most beautiful would be the faded rose one, but I probably wouldn’t choose that in a public forum (which this wouldn’t necessarily be for the students) because it seems cheesy and corny for a professional gerontologist, and a bit suspect and sleazy for a relatively-young person to talk about the beauty of ageing. But (pseudo-privately) I do think that’s what makes that picture beautiful. A picture of that rose a week prior would have been obvious and not very interesting (I have several like that in my own photo albums). The ageing of that rose, to my eye, makes it more beautiful.

Most compelling for me would be the woman playing the harmonica. I like the way her gaze looks simultaneously abstracted and focused – abstracted from the photographer and the viewer but focused on the playing. I like the emphasis on her arms and their skin markings and the bags under her eyes. I like it as an image of an older(ish) person that is outside the usual canons of frail vulnerable care-receiver or golden retirement consumer heaven (Bytheway, 2003; Williams et al., 2010)

I might need to do some more distinguishing between whether I want the students to chose powerful images (which is what I’m mostly choosing) or images that suggest something interesting to them about ageing (which might be the same, but might not). But that’s a minor tweak to work out later.

Hooray for blogging – it not only helps me remember things for later, but also gives me ideas for the present.


Bytheway, Bill, (2003) ‘Visual representations of late life’. In Faircloth, C.A. (ed), Aging Bodies: Images and Everyday Experience, Altamira, Walnut Creek, California.

Williams, Angie, Wadleigh, Paul, Ylänne, Virpi, (2010) ‘Images of older people in UK magazine advertising: toward a typology’, International Journal of Aging & Human Development, Vol. 71 Issue 2, p83-114,


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