My life in pictures, stories and open letters.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Society Embarrassed by Aging

Really?


Obsession with youth appears in obituaries

There is a big increase in the use of decades-old photos showing the deceased as a strapping soldier or fresh-faced bride instead of the senior citizens most were when they died.
There is a big increase in the use of decades-old photos showing the deceased as a strapping soldier or fresh-faced bride instead of the senior citizens most were when they died.
Photograph by : Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

Shannon Proudfoot, Canwest News Service

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Our obsession with youth is obvious where least expected, new research suggests -- in the obituary pages.

In a new study, Keith Anderson, a social-work professor at Ohio State University, combed through four decades of newspaper obituaries and the photographs accompanying them.

He found a big increase in the use of decades-old photos showing the deceased as a strapping soldier or fresh-faced bride instead of the senior citizens most were when they died.

Anderson sees this as evidence of our society's growing obsession with youth and inability to see beauty in age.

"We don't select our own obit photographs in general, but the families do. It does point to what the families see as mom or dad at their best," he says. "As a society, I don't think we see someone who's 80 years old as at the prime of their life, which is a sort of ageist perspective."

Suzanne Scott, executive director of the Funeral Service Association of Canada, says funeral directors she spoke with believe it has more to do with families choosing a photo that represents the best of their loved one's life.

Anderson found that death at an older age made it more likely a younger photo would be chosen and women were twice as likely as men to have age-inaccurate photos, which he says points to the "double jeopardy" of ageism and sexism faced by older women.

© The Vancouver Province 2009


I think that your loved ones will post a picture of you at a time when YOU felt your best.

A young, strapping soldier, defending his country. Short of being a husband and probably father, THOSE were his years. That is what he was proud of.

A picture of a young woman, in her nursing degree photo. A time when education wasn't important for women, and she probably had to work extra hard for what she got. Perhaps those were her best years.

I don't think a family looks at photos of their dearly departed and thinks, "Ew! Look at her age spots! We can't use that ugly thing!"

Personally, when I go, use a young picture of me. I don't like me right now. I would hate that THIS was a person's last impression of me. Use a picture where I was young, slim, pretty, carefree, and yes, happy. With no bags under my eyes or jowls like my English Mastiff. These extra 40 pounds are torture. Please, if I die tomorrow, don't use a now picture.

And for that matter, only play '80s songs. Because clearly I'm okay with living in the past.

3 comments:

June Freaking Cleaver said...

I agree with your conclusion, rather than that of the study. They'd rather be remembered when they dressed their best, felt their best, or looked their best - who can blame them?

Friends and family seeing pictures of the sick, dying person only makes them feel bad, and makes them realize that they, too, are getting closer to death.

Why not suspend reality just once and celebrate the accomplishments, instead of remarking about how bad they look?

wy-not said...

My personal favourites, if you can say such a thing about obits, are the ones that run a "then and now" kind of pic, a younger and an older. We all want to think of ourselves perpetually at our best, even while time plays its tricks. The worst cases, imho, are the ones that don't run any obit at all. Surely to goodness, my time spent in the dash (1951-20xx) that all important dash, mattered enough for somebody to write, publish and pay for an obit for me. What? You could spend it paying bingo or getting a mani-pedi? Oh. Okay then. :-) I don't plan to be around to plan yours Rhonda. Just make sure you write it down so your great-grandchildren do what you want. :-)

Lilly said...

I agree with you and I also think you described me to a T - jowls like my English Mastiff.

I have been eating like there is no tomorrow. I have to get a grip and stop cooking sweet stuff...oh why is life so hard, ha ha!