Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-w65q4 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-09-23T18:45:04.156Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Three faces of ageism: society, image and place

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 March 2003

Department of Geography, Arizona State University, Tempe.


This paper elucidates and champions a spatiality perspective in social gerontology, by arguing that relationships between older people and the spaces and places they inhabit illuminate deeply-ingrained societal attitudes and values. The trilogy of society, image and place is explored through an interpretive reading of images and scripts in ‘successful ageing’ and ‘anti-ageing’ created and promoted by the booming ‘retirement industry’ in the United States. Six tropes are revealed in an interpretation of prevalent images of ‘Sunbelt Retirement Land’: geographic cornucopia, ageless selves, near perfection, the right stuff, down home living, and nomads of desire. This reading serves as a springboard in elaborating Cole's (1992) notion of bipolar ageism, as we vacillate between negative stereotypes of old age and positive elixirs, such as anti-ageing and agelessness, that are cloaked denials of decline, disease and death. The paper concludes with a series of troubling questions about the perpetuation and depth of ageism in society and culture.

Every present day is determined by the images that are synchronic with it: each ‘now’ is the now of a particular recognizability. (Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, 1999: 462–63)

Research Article
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)