Monday, May 18, 2009

The double whammy of aging

I've blogged about the verbs for death and dying used in obituaries, but I hadn't really thought about the photos. Most announcements don't carry photos, and usually I can tell from the eye glasses and hair styles (of women) the age of the photograph. And I'm not surprised when the subject or his children select a military photo--which sends several visual messages--youth, vigor, patriotism, camaraderie, history. This research at OSU on "ageism" and bias, did surprise me, however, I suppose in the conclusion. The last "formal" portrait I have of my parents is from a 1991 church directory when they were in their late 70s. They died in 2000 and 2002. It's a nice portrait, and informal photographs I have of them later are nice, but it's that one I keep displayed. Glancing around my office, I think that one may even be better of my father than the one taken in 1984 for their 50th--the year he was recovering from heart surgery and he was very gaunt and thin. And we have a family portrait of my father-in-law with his four children taken on his 90th birthday which is quite nice. My mother-in-law was in such poor health the last 25 years of her life I would probably select a nice Valentine photo of 1963 with her husband if it didn't have other negative memories (death of our oldest son same week).
    "Results of the study showed that age-inaccurate photos increased steadily each decade: from 17 percent (1967) to 27 percent (1977) to 30 percent (1987) and finally to 36 percent (1997). The researchers found that each additional year in age at time of death increased the odds of having an age-inaccurate obituary photo."
The author of the research, Keith Anderson, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Ohio State University, says it's a double whammy for women--ageism and sexism. It may also be cultural--how often do you have a formal portrait taken after, say, the grandchild's wedding, or the 50th anniversary? And who's to say that person in the mirror at age 85 is more you than the one who used to be there 25 years ago?

What do you think? Do you have a photo in mind?


Anonymous said...

No I do I plan not to have a funeral or an obit...and I have made that clear to loved ones.I do notice the same thing in our local paper...the photos do not match up with the birth date. However, I understand,at least,from a female point of view wanting to be rememebered as young and I am no different. But I have seen some very pretty old ladies and since I am old I notice them more and more...usually wondering what they are doing to look so good and wishing I'd taken better care of myself.I think usually a loveing family member does these obits,if the departed has not done one up in advance. Doing my dads obit was easy..he was an easy going Irishman with out a mean bone and loyal friends...Mom on the other hand was many fascited(sp) and had a big ego but we managed and think she would have been happy with it..with both we omitted a photo letting people recall them however they wished and at whatever age. it was an interest piece. Norma, you manage some interesting stuff! You are, by far my most intersting friend, Your not so intersting friend, Lynne

Hokule'a Kealoha said...

I used a church dirctory portrait of my parents at both of their memorials and is was I think one of the best pictures ever taken of them, certainly the best one of my father late in his life. The 2000 portrait of Woody and myself was the best picture taken of use those Olan Mills folks sure know how to do a great job

this obit is something a person can write and stash with their other documents ahead of time I think having that done is a great service to those left behind