The rapidly ageing demographic in Western society influences people’s own expectations of later life. People often think it is very normal to be unhappy and depressed when you are old (RSPH, 2018:5). This research project set out to reduce the stigma of growing older by challenging people’s perceived image of ageing through an intergenerational and participatory process using creative design methods. The aim of the study is to have a better understanding of people’s experience of ageing and challenge perceived perspectives of older people.
Semi-structured interviews were held with three older people (age 80+) and two adolescents (age 14) to understand their perceived image of a typical older person in relation to their lived experiences. Two intergenerational workshops were organised with the same participants to collectively come up with new ideas to represent older people in everyday visual media. In total three sets of data were analysed: visual-, conversational- and observational data.
According to the participants a typical older person is a woman with an average age of 75+ which confirms that (gender) stereotyping of older people still exists within the Scottish culture and needs to be addressed. Insights share that both generations feel misrepresented in the media, ageing is mainly represented as a story of decline and that there is a language barrier between generations. Reflecting on the engagement tools, they can function as a co-analysing tool, evoke curiosity with participants, and stimulate group dynamics in a workshop.
The outcomes are a set of practical recommendations for organisations who wish to challenge ageism in their visual strategy and are: (I) portray the diversity of the older age group, (II) rebrand ordinary ageing bodies through visual media and (III) provide balanced and playful conversations between generations. Further research can explore how these recommendations relate to other marginalised groups.
The research has been conducted during my time as a full-time Masters of Research (MRes) student at The Glasgow School ofArt’s Innovation School based in Forres and was partially funded by DHI (Digital Health & Care Institute).
Within my work I value the collaborative and explorative nature of design research that aspires for social transformation and equality. Currently, I am working at STBY as a design researcher in Amsterdam.