Remembering My Hat

24th October 2013

Designing collaborative learning activities better

Notes from a workshop I attended today, organised by the METIS project. Appropriately enough, we were working collaboratively in groups to design a collaborative learning activity. Because this is The Open University, we were designing for an online distance-learning context, where the issues are quite different from face-to-face settings.  But I suspect some of the principles could also be applied to face-to-face teaching.

The first activity we were asked to undertake involved thinking about how to *ruin* a collaborative learning activity. I really liked this form of activity – it made you act as a kind of devil’s advocate to your own favourite ideas. I might reuse this form at the start of my next workshop with the K118 team, but in relation to a different topic (probably assessment).

How to ruin a collaborative learning activity :

  • Unclear about what students need to do so they spend all their time as a group debating this
  • Award credit to whole group regardless of individual input
  • no clear link to learning outcomes
  • make it too big or too small

Barriers to collaborative learning for students:

  • time – students can’t see benefit and see collaborative activity as optional extra so don’t do it.
  • technological problems
  • confidence/anxiety
  • why should they bother? Is more complex than working on your own for many people – needs to have a bigger pay-off
  • group dynamics – some people being unsupportive to others, some people not pulling their weight.
  • students’ different timetables (and possibly time zones)

Possible solutions:

  • Make benefits very clear e.g. in Module Guide, in teaching materials whenever collab activity is introduced, assess it (although this creates its own problems), tie-in to learning outcomes and assessment (even if actual activity is not assessed), workplace benefits.
  • Build confidence through starting with an easier collaborative activity (but make sure it isn’t facile – maybe something a bit reflective (but not too personal) would work well at this stage).
  • Have some flexibility in what technology they can use – email as a back-up?
  • Build up to it carefully
  • Include an example of what the end product should look like, so they know what they are aiming for.
  • Some discussion of group processes and roles.
  • Allow group to form a little before they start work (or include introductory activity as part of task)
  • Careful grouping – people in interest groups? Nation/region/area groups? [Anything more fine-grained creates significant work for ALs or central academics]
  • Clear guidance on what they need to do and when.
  • Possibility of individuals swapping groups?
  • Signpost significant collab activity v clearly in module description.

(cc) Brenderous

Verbs that might be particularly relevant to Learning Outcomes for collaborative learning activity:

  • build on
  • co-create
  • contribute
  • debate with
  • discusss with
  • engage with
  • enhance
  • improve on
  • motivate
  • perform
  • share
  • challenge

Then we did an activity designing a collaborative learning activity. Luckily for me, my group was asked to focus on my module, K118 (Perspectives on Health and Social Care), so I chose something form the Ageing and Later Life block that I thought it would particularly benefit students to do collaboratively.

Learning outcome – share different experiences  to increase awareness of the diversity of older people and challenge preconceptions.

Learning output – create shared wiki (resources and experiences of using wikis at Level one in Arts A150) [My hunch is that this is too technically complex to actually use on K118 but I will investigate it] Simpler output would just be discussion within the tutor group forum. Further discussion of this later in the day.

Presentation from Mary Thorpe, IET, The OU

Some forum-based examples of good-practice.

Simulation / role play

Students have been learning about 3 main theories about X in first 12 weeks of module.

  1. Tutor allocated one of three ‘hats’ to each student in their tutor group.
  2. Students watch a DVD clip and have to answer a question, wearing their particular hat. Given structured questions to help them do that.
  3. Post answers to forum and discuss, use clip timings to be clear. [Nice way of getting them to think about different theoretical perspectives, and possibly making them engage with ones they are not naturally attracted to].
  4. Then tutor group forum discussion.
  5. Then watch another clip, wearing the same hat.
  6. Post answer to forum in same way but also adding reference to other module materials to support arguments.
  7. Take off hats. Watch clips again, think about your own practice. Which theory best fits your practice?

Another example:

Pyramid or snowball – individual study of problem, then compare discuss, propose shared solution, all agree shared solution.

Do individual report on topic of choice (or allocated by tutor) and upload to tutor group forum. Then role play some kind of meeting where have to argue the case for their topic/group. Get marks for participating and reflecting on process, as well as for outputs.

[Stuff I’m already very alert to about importance of making it possible for students to pass assignment even if don’t take part in collaborative activity. And benefits of marks for ‘reflecting on the process’ as well as the outputs]

In example discussed, students hadn’t met before worked together – day school was culmination of activity, not beginning. Did some evaulation – students were fine about working with people they didn’t know because it was so clearly structured. Didn’t need much input from ALs because was so clearly structured. Students felt able to disagree (which is often a worry about collaborative work, that it ends up being too bland and consensual), because of ‘hats’/simulation kind of nature  – it wasn’t personal. They supported their arguments well with evidence [key skill! Great if you can enable that through this kind of thing].

Notes of caution from MT: be very clear about why collaboration is beneficial. Have to have a very good reason to cause students to loose the benefits of individual and flexible study to their own timescales. A tall order at level 1. Optional collaboration can be better (but then of course you’ll get much lower participation rates).

[My thoughts about how we could apply this to K118 – could maybe do ‘hats on’ kind of activity in Mental Health Block where they are looking at competing explanations for mental distress (and hence conflicting prescriptions for help and support). Or in Ageing activity idea, could be asking students to take on persona of particular older person from a set of case studies / characters they have already met (Molly and Monty?) and arguing for what is most important for them for good quality of life in later life (or similar). This could work well in the final week of the block, when they will have already met all the characters.]

Then we had a very brief lunch break (this was a hard and long day’s work, hence the rather long post)

(cc) Terence S. Jones

Back to the design of the possible activity for K118:

We were given a large sheet of flip-chart paper and some special Learning Design post-it notes which are coded as ‘resource’ ‘activity/task’ ‘learning outcome’ and ‘tool’. We then had to categorise all the parts of the activity appropriately on the post-it notes and storyboard them.

  1. Start with explanation of benefits of this activity: revision, employability skills of team-working, what else?
  2. Module team identifies 4 or 5 diverse older people students have already met during Block (Molly, Monty, others)
  3. AL allocates students to characters (or students choose for themselves? Might not get a good range then).
  4. Students review material on characters and fill in a set of questions to help them think about that person and their experiences.
  5. On forum (organised by threads) students discuss salient features of this person.
  6. Then they are posed a question that gets at diversity (something like ‘what is the most important thing in ensuring their quality of life?’) and have to argue that from the perspective of their character.

After we’d done this, I got a bit worried that this was too character-driven, given that we are already worried that students remember the characters, not the theories they are supposed to make intelligible. Also that it might be too easy. We then talked about how you could make it more challenging by getting students to come up with new case studies. Perhaps something like ‘write a short description of an older person who is completely different from [some stereotyped media portrayal of an older person]’. Then, once they had posted their case study, they would have to answer the same question about ‘what’s most important’ or whatever. Or, even better, could get them to find a real-life example from newspapers, publications from voluntary organisations or people they know. Write a summary, read other students’ summaries (this gets them some immediate benefit from . collaborative activity – they get to read more case studies of diverse older people than they could research themselves). Then debate the question (about quality of life or whatever) in the persona of their case study, in groups of 4 -6 within their forum.

So when we came to the next bit of the workshop, which was translating the storyboard into a prototype online tool called ‘WebCollage’, we further refined it to this last idea. This is all captured on the tool, but I don’ t think that’s publicly visible. I can see it here

After we’d done this (in our collaboratively-learning groups, naturally), we had some whole group discussion of our experiences. There was a theme of people finding the tool quite difficult to get to grips with. Several people said that the tool helped them design better activities by forcing them to be systematic and sequential [I don’t think that is a huge benefit for me because I’ve always designed activities in a fairly structured and systematic way, without using such a tool. I worry there might be a bit of a Hawthorne Effect going on here]. The tool did force me to think about what the tutor would be doing to support this activity, because that was one of the fields you had to complete, which was a useful prompt. In my group we thought that there might need to be some separate guidance for tutors on how to run activities like this [investigate whether we are allowed to do this nowadays].

Then we did a ‘heuristic evaluation’ which was defined as team of experts assessing by using a set of heuristics (or ‘rules of thumb’). A low-fidelity rapid evaluation to pick up design flaws at an early stage. Experts ‘walk through’ activity as if students. The rules of thumb were the ‘ways to ruin a collaborative activity’ and ‘barriers’ we identified at the beginning of the workshop. The heuristics we picked out to be evaluated against were:

  1. Clear benefit to students
  2. Build skills gradually in small steps, to prepare for collaborative learning activity
  3. Learning Outcomes need to be clear so students can see what the benefits are (?link to assessment)
  4. Be clear about time needed and ensure this is explicitly built into week’s workload

The rest of my team evaluated another group’s activity but I stayed with the potential K118 activity, to explain it to my evaluators. We used a basic grid: where’s the problem, what’s the problem, what heuristic does it violate, how severe is the violation, recommended action. The potential K118 activity came out pretty well, except what they thought was a minor issue about needing to be a bit more specific about the time needed by students and how many weeks this activity would be spread across. I thought that was fair enough. This would have been a more valuable activity to do once the author thought the activity was fully-designed – it was too easy for me to say ‘we were going to cover that, we just hadn’t had time to get on to that bit yet’!

At the end of the day we had to fill in a lengthy evaulation questionnaire (of course). I managed to press ‘reset’ instead of ‘submit’ at the bottom. That was a very bad end to what was otherwise a good and useful day.


23rd October 2013

(a)Dressing the Ageing Demographic seminar: Part 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 10:47

More extensive notes from a seminar. I did say it was a really good day! Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

The next bit of the day took the form of a kind of ‘open mike’ event where people had just a few minutes to tell other people about their own research or work in the field. Some people had prepared slides in advance, others only decided to say something once they were at the event. I thought it worked really nicely. I might steal this idea for the next conference or seminar I organise.

Anne Karpf, London Met. New book about discourses and ideologies of age – trying to distill cultural and social gerontology into popular form includes discussion of age-quake, swamping, being overwhelmed. Seen as demographic fact, not ageism. ‘How to Age’ Pan-MacMillan, published in January.

Penny – Older women who writes regularly about clothes finds in charity shops. Found lots of fashion blogs for young people and 40s and 40s, not much for 70-ish people – that’s her niche. Fashion as you age – you can become more creative in the way you dress, not bound by work clothes or caring for children [hmm, this is a position of considerable privilege – danger of appearing mad if clothes are too eccentric]

Man who didn’t state his name: Need to retheorise lifespan development in the light of new ageing populations. Is there a connection between dress and resilience and coping strategies [yes, obv around privilege. But poss more]. How much does how you present yourself affect your ability to access care services?

PhD student: Sensory impacts of clothes. We change our clothes and our clothes change us. Person animates the clothes, but the clothes dress the person. Family metaphors for clothes ‘these are the sister pair of the other shoes…’. Semi-retirement in 2nd home in country when no longer suitable for London life. Poem ‘ode to the clothes’ Pablo Neruda, 1954 [look this out – she showed extracts, was really good!]

Reader in Psych at London College of Fashion. Interviews with women aged over 60 – all said didn’t want to look young or younger, wanted to look good at their age [but I’m suspicious that this is just about knowing what are the politically correct answers are].

“When somebody dies, it’s like a library on fire” people are a huge resource. [I think this is a rather outdated image – physical libraries are no longer the place knowledge and experience are stored]

Mary Harlow Univ of Leciester. Ageing Romans. Does work on clothes and ageing and Romans. Toga as clothing you can wear at any age (as a man), other more military clothes only approriate to younger men. Julius Cesar notorious for dressing unusually (invented laurel wreath to cover bald patch! Long sleeves (unmanly), didn’t wear a proper toga – wore shorter tunic.Clothes v simple for Roman men – tunic + toga. Little differentiation. Toga not pinned – held in tension by yr body. Difficult for ageing body. But older men  wrap themselves more. One emperor gave permission for old men to wear cloaks as well, otherwise not allowed. Old age relatively undifferentiated because clothes so simple

(cc) Mary Harrsch

Amy Twigger Holroyd. Keep & Share – her design business Just finished PhD. Folk fashion – homemade clothes. Amateur re-knitting as sustainable strategy. Knitting as both modern cool hip thing and granny, boring, sad, unfashionable. Knitting coded as grannies. [Knitting defined as grannyish and grannies defined by knitting – ace!]

Kaili-Lotta Juhkam [sp? Of surname] Estonian designer and entrepreneur. Ceremonial garment design for older women.

Older woman emphasising embodied realities of ageing. Affects fashion. Less choice.

Design for Ageing Well: Dressing the Active Ageing through co-design with Industry Stakeholders

Jane McCann, Univ of South Wales

Project aiming to enhance autonomy and independence of 60 – 75s by use of smart fabrics and technologies – innovations such as breathable and waterproof, fleeces.

Techno clothing started mainly in sports. Techno clothes with aesthetic appeal for OP are lacking. Designs are not good for older bodies – too clinging.

Project used user-centred design process. Did initial ‘show and tell’ session where people brought in clothes they liked [and looked like also ones that supported them being active] (seat/backpack, jacket with lots pockets, nightie that’s decent for going to loo on holiday)

Older woman user rep went to trade show for activity clothes, showed reps how she couldn’t access zips, collars, hoods.

What technology did users want incorporated in their clothes? Designers expected health-related technologies but users wanted pedometers, GPS. Keep me warm was v imp, keep me cool only just less.

Globalisation and fast fashion don’t help – mistakes creep in. Designers in West, clothes made in China, Bangladesh etc.

Companies [v. big names I won’t mention here] playing major role in this research but not wanting to be named – v interested in ageing markets but don’t want to be seen as making clothes for OP.

Need for ‘Slow Fashion’ (Shah, 2013). More expensive clothes that last longer. Fits better with how OP tend to approach clothes [although will that last when my generation are older?]

The final speaker was Beth Butterwick, the CEO of the Bon Marche clothes chain. We were told that some of the information in her talk was commercially sensitive, so we weren’t to discuss it outside the seminar. Since I’m not confident of my own ability to distinguish which parts of her talk this applied to, I won’t say anything except that it was very interesting and I found it a bit depressing about the way retailers (have to?) work with stereotypes.

General discussion

Women’s clothing has become so sexualised. This makes it very hard for older women who get demonised if they appear to be trying to sexy.

JT: Yes, clothes have got very close to the body in last 10 yrs or so. Rise Shapewear is one response to that, for younger women too. Pornification of clothes? [Influence of Strictly?]

22nd October 2013

(a)Dressing the Ageing Demographic seminar: Part 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:26

Notes from a seminar. Part 1 here and part 2 here.

Jo-Anne Bichard

RCA Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design

Photos by Ali Winstanley – blog ‘the luminous eye’ [look at this] tumblr

HH Centre set up to explore design implications of demographic change.

Predecessor centre ran a similar seminar back in 1993 ‘designing for our future selves’ – included a seminar on textiles. Mick Jagger still featured as symbol of older man but only 50 then. Many things very similar. Drew up shopping list for change – some has been followed up – more colour, positive older models. But also wanted stuff we’ve been talking about today and can’t get.

Loads of interesting research within the centre [look at website]. Clothes that work better for people with arthritis. Orthotic shoes that don’t look horrible. ‘Smart pants’ which alert wearer that continence pad is in danger of overflowing.


Sonja Iltanen

Aalto University, Helsinki

Internal conflicts within the work of designers

Interested in interplay between clothing and the body.

Material reality, practices and interpretations & how these are played out in the dressed ageing body.

Has done 3 big projects about design and clothing, presenting here just the data from her interviews, surveys and other interactions with designers.

Thinks there is a gap in the market between mainstream fashion for people aged 50-65ish and care-focused clothing for people with dementia and other high support needs.

Mass market designers v reluctant to discuss ageing in clothing – claimed ageing doesn’t matter but users disagree.

Designers talked instead about ‘classic style’ and ‘a lady who needs elasticated waist bands’. User found these euphemisms amusing. A lot of praising of good models of ageing

Designers of clothes for care market: No denial, no euphemism, no talk of successful ageing. Knowledgeable, but maybe a bit do-gooding 

Practices very different for mainstream designers v. specialists in clothes for care market:

  • Large scale v. small scale businesses
  • Fashion buyers, previous yrs stats affect a lot what is bought v. competitive bidding – care facility buys the clothing. Imp role of care staff in buying
  • Consumer is v powerful. Functional and social needs considered v. Needs of the care staff are prioritised. Users’ needs only considered in functional term
  • [other contrasts I didn’t manage to type fast enough – really interesting analysis!]

Clothing that is designed to be impossible for PWD to get out of, to stop them taking their clothes off inappropriately – lock in neck that nurse holds key to. Found in many countries, incl UK. It is staff needs that are addressed, not residents. Bad practice! [Lots of horror in audience]

Some designers saw this as just another product in a line of products. Or medical need. Functional. A restraint. Dignifying. Stigmatising. Infantalising. Amusing. V diverse reactions.

Users highly skilled at reading the products – recognised age-related features and dementia related. Felt v offended by some.


(a)Dressing the Ageing Demographic seminar: Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:17

More notes from a seminar. Part 1 here.

Jenny Hockey

The temporal landscape of shoes: Ageing, identity and footwear

Footwear can show something about chronological age and linearity of life course, but can also be disrupted and subverted.

Taking a longer life course perspective on shoes – earlier identities can be released or revisited, future age-based identities can be accelerated or deferred.

Data presenting today mainly from women, but did also talk to men.

–        Linearity of life course can be disrupted when earlier identity is revisited

–        Future time deferred – comfy shoes avoided because they would make you look old

–        Past released – freedom from painful shoes now you are older

–        Past appropriated as resource – vintage, hand-me-down shoes

Respondents alert to age-meanings of their shoes.

Stronger ethical theme in data than expected – people worrying about buying too many shoes. Also vintage / hand-me-down shoes as ethical choice.

Shoes can be a ‘prosthetic’ of the self [more so than all clothes? I suppose they are a bit more functional than a jumper]

(cc) Ed Schipul



Me: what’s specific about shoes? Lots of this could be applied to all clothing.

JH: Symbolically particularly loaded. Actors say that you need to get the shoes and feet right and then the character follows. Feet don’t change with age as much as other parts of body.

Someone: larger size woman, lost weight, could wear different shoes because of comfort. Herself after hip op could wear heels again. Embodied aspects of choice.


Christina Buse

The Way we Wear: Implications of clothing and dress for people with dementia

Clothes can still be important for people with dementia  – maintaining identity at an embodied level

Why dementia and dress? Fashion, frivolity and fun – not much to do with dementia

Less ability to dress independently with dementia

–        But clothing significant to social identity

–        Embodied selfhood (Kontos, 2004, 2006)

–        Significant in reminiscence therapies (Schweitzer, Bruce and Gibson, 2008)

This study 3 Kent care homes, 15 domestic settings

28 care home workers, 29 family carers and relatives, 32 PWD, Clothing companies (work ongoing)

Clothes as memory and biographical objects (Ash, 1996, Hoskins 1998)Quite a lot of tatty old clothes kept because of memories /symbolic meanings.

Moving into care homes changes relationship to clothes [less storage for clothes, often?]. Many people got rid of lots of clothes when moved into care but held on to smaller items like handbags, jewellery. Someone who keeps hairdressing scissors and kit in her handbag because she *is* a hairdresser. Clothing is site for performance of identity. Also form of social diffentiation.

Are PWD still interested in  / able to express identity through dress?

Yes, especially in earlier to mid stages of dementia when can still express themselves fairly clearly [altho could still be important in later stages but people can’t express it]

Women describing themselves as a skirts person or a trousers person. Men expressing lack of interest in fashion. Women identifying themselves as ‘plain Janes’ (being respectable important, especially for working class women) or ‘glamour girls’

(cc) crafty_dame

But disjuncture: Care workers talked about PWD not wanting to change their clothes, wearing dirty clothes. PWD talked about dressing for occasion but didn’t actually do this, just put on same clothes as day before.

Relatives curating identity (Crichton and Koch, 2007) – maintaining their past identity when they no longer could. Clothes as one way of doing this. Family carers upset if PWD in care home not dressed in ways they saw as typical / their style.

Care workers recognise commenting postiviely on PWD’s appearance as important and beneficial to them.

PWadvancedD often respond to feel of fabric, especially velvet, silk, fur – people can’t nec name colours any more but can appreciate texture.

Tights partic difficult to get onto someone else. Underwear difficult esp bras. Incontinence pads require larger clothes. Things need to be washable at high temperatures.

Jogging bottoms for men seen as ideal clothing for men with dementia – easy to get on and off, comfy, wash at high temps. But many men of this generation always wore proper trousers. Also fly-fronted trousers significant signifier of adult masculinity – [infantalising, like Posy Simmons cartoon]

Women wearing skirts, but these ride-up and reveal parts of body that ‘should’ be covered. Homes encourage wearing trousers, to protect dignity, but this may be very alien to some women.

Potential for design solutions. One person had replaced buttons on man’s shirt with Velcro, so could be more independent. But this can be more confusing – PWD is naturally expecting buttons on a shirt

Specialist clothing can be stigmatising.


Moment of having to start wearing tracksuits bottoms, v significant to men as source of shame.

Jogging bottoms as backstage clothes. Are care homes public or private space? They are at the boundaries.

CB: women carrying handbags, suggests felt was a public space. [suggests to me Lee-Treweek’s work on bedrooms as backstage, lounges as frontstage]


(a)Dressing the Ageing Demographic seminar: Part 1

Last Friday I went to a seminar at the Royal College of Art about clothes and growing older. It was fantastic. Really stimulating and interesting, and even more fun that usual in the coffee breaks noticing what everyone was wearing! I met up with some people I already knew and am always glad to see and also got to know some new ones, including the journalist who writes the Guardian’s Invisible Woman blog about clothing, body image and getting older. I also admired a very beautiful and stylish older women and said to someone else that I aspired to look like her in 40 years time. Then I discovered she was, in fact, a model (and still working as such, I think) and decided that was probably an unrealistic hope.

What follows is my usual idiosyncratic and incomplete notes from the day, with my own additional thoughts in square brackets.

(cc) Brian J Matis

Julia Twigg

Fashion and Age: Dres, the Body and Later Life

There’s a persistent normative age ordering of clothes, especially for women. Largely expressed negatively – what is not suitable for someone as they grow older

–        More covered up, higher necks, longer skirts, looser cut

–        Darker, duller colours

–        Sober self-effacing, avoiding claims to sexual attention

Can see this in those Scandinavian life stage pictures, as well as nowadays.

But these cultural factors are also in interplay with changes in the body

SizeUK did a literal ‘shape of the nation’ survey. New shape much more realistic for older women. Used by some retailers.

JT drawing on Barnard on ways gender and class are seen as natural but actually ideological, to theorise dress as also ideological.

There’s a dominant cultural narrative that this age ordering is gone or is going or has lessened. ‘60 is the new 40’. In academia sometimes called the reconstitution of ageing thesis. Older people argued to now be nearer the mainstream than they used to be. New pattern of the life course – extended mid-life up to 4th Age. More undifferentiated middle years.

Showed that Posy Simmons cartoon of ‘A lifetime of babywear: The Seven Ages of Man’ – wearing teeshirt and shorts at all life stages.

Making the point that men’s clothes don’t change across the lifecourse. But you can also see in the cartoon the way that clothes are tweaked by clothes designers to make the same garment age-appropriate – elasticated waists at youngest and oldest ages, not in mid-life

So does age ordering still operate?

Women in JT’s study were aware of age ordering and largely obeyed it – stressed need for caution, avoiding exposing body, over young or girly styles, frilly clothes, anything eye-catching.

‘The wardrobe moment’ when women feel they can no longer wear a particular thing [I had one of those when I was coming up to 40. Not so much since but that could be because I’ve adapted my wardrobe in accordance with age orderings?]

Sense of exile from cultural practices of feminity, or feminity itself

But also evidence of change. Felt wore very different clothes from their mothers. Keen to avoid drab, chintz and crimplene especially!

Clothing retailers also believe things have changed. Asda – 30 yrs ago people would switch to ‘classic’ clothing at a life point, no more. Older women now wear brighter, fresher colours. Ranges for older women marked by use of strong clear colours. E.g. celebs like Mary Berry

Larger retail context to this – arrival of cheap Fast Fashion – late 20th and 21st C. True democratisation of fashion – greater than 19th C or mid 20th C one, arguably. People shop more often – over 75s now shop for clothes as often as teens and twenties in e. 1960s. Clothes are cheaper, still remain accessible if on lowish income in later life.

‘Moving Younger’. Clothes as aspirational – dream of idealised self, younger, thinner, richer, smarter. Consumption of clothes allows this. So retailers persistently portray their clothes as aimed at a younger market than they know their customers actually are.

Style diffusion. Youth has replaced class as the engine for style diffusion. No longer introduced by elites and then abandoned by them as taken up by lower classes. Not so much that older people are dressing younger, but that styles are diffusing older – centre of fashionability is youth, edges is older.

Age norms and age ordering still exist. Continue to encode ageist meanings

But also clear evidence for change – norms are shifting. Fashion industry is playing a part in this shift.


These covered up styles for older women is because of stigmatisation and fear of older bodies

Rise of ‘shapewear’ – new forms of corsetry. Can now get it extending to arms!

JT: one respondent felt could do longer wear girly styles she liked, but always wore coloured, girly underwear as form of secret resistance.

1st October 2013

International Day of Older Persons: Why I am hesitant about simply ‘celebrating’ the day

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 11:47
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Since 1990, the UN has designated 1st October each year as the International Day of Older Persons. Over on Twitter, @LGBTageing asked some of us what we were doing to celebrate the day. This is my somewhat hedged and cautious reply – sorry!

(cc) kslavin

Of course there’s lots of good things about later life and growing older, and it’s really important to resist the common discourses of old age as decline and despair. Celebrating ageing and older people is one way of doing that and it’s an important project that I’m really pleased organisations and individuals are taking on. But I find myself a bit hesitant at writing something simply ‘celebratory’ about older people.

Some of my discomfort about ‘celebrating’ older persons is because I am not yet myself generally categorised as an ‘older person’. Of course, the beauty of the term ‘older person’ is that is is inherently relative – I am older than I was, older than a teenager, older than some of my colleagues – so in that sense everyone is an older person. But the term usually gets used in the UK to refer to people in their 60s, 70s or older. In some contexts, including in the study of non-heterosexual ageing, ‘older’ often includes people in their 50s, but I’m not quite there yet either. Because I’m not yet in that chronological age bracket, for all I recognise the social constructedness of those age categories, it feels to me as if ‘older people’ is other than me. And since I do not feel like an ‘older person’ myself yet, it feels potentially a bit patronising and otherising to ‘celebrate’ older people as a group.

Older people are hugely diverse and people’s experiences of ageing and later life vary enormously. They are far too diverse to be simply ‘celebrated’. The phenomenon of ageing also seems to me to be to be far too complex to be simply a matter of celebration. Ageing is just a thing, it’s neither bad nor good. Of course we’re not starting on a level playing field – ageing is hugely stigmatised and demonised. Therefore I do in practice spend quite a lot of my time talking up the positives of ageing and later life, in an attempt to redress the balance. But, being a contrary sort of person, I find the invitation to celebrate makes me want to note some of the reasons it’s more complex than that.

As so often when I’m thinking about age, I discover that my colleague and former PhD supervisor, Bill Bytheway, has got there before me. What follows are some extracts from the last page of his 1995 book ‘Ageism’ [1]. He is talking about whether the best way to refute ageism is to be positive about later life. He cites the experiences so many of us have had when we say we work with older people: acquaintances say ‘that must be depressing!’ and the temptation is to reply:

Most elderly people are really nice, absolutely fascinating once you get to know them … The things they say! … Working with them is really interesting … Some of them are real characters!

Instead, Bytheway suggests we should reply:

The people I work with are pretty ordinary. They have lived long lives and survived many experiences. I like working with them because there are things I can do to make life more satisfactory for them. They tell me what they think and I listen to them and sometimes argue. You can learn a lot from ordinary people. I enjoy the work; it’s worth doing.

Bytheway, B. (1995) Ageism Open University Press, Buckingham and Philadelphia.

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