Towards a Humanistic Gerontology: Methodological Issues in 'Seeing' Visual Images of Ageing
Research Institute for Health and Social Change Manchester Metropolitan University Manchester, UK
This paper adds to a growing corpus of knowledge on photographic images of ageing. Visual images are extraordinarily powerful, but also extraordinarily ambiguous, and interpreting them underlines the need for gerontology to confront profound ethical and political questions. At the same time there has been an emphasis, especially by policy makers, on positive ageing. Images abound of examples of older people 'doing' positive ageing. Unlike previous studies, the one reported here examines photographs which were produced explicitly as part of a 'positive images of ageing' campaign in Manchester. As part of this, calendars have been produced which aim to question stereotypes of older people. The calendars are available on Manchester City Council's web-site and, as such, are located within a specific social and political context. The paper explores some of the different interpretations of positive ageing which the makers of the calendars conveyed and shows how the reader's political and moral viewsalso influence how he or she reads the pagws they see. Specifically, the paper outlines the purposes of the campaign, examines the relationship between images and text (for instance, captions and quotes) and concludes by posing methodological matters raised for the development of a humanistic gerontology.