Three faces of ageism: Society, image and place

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


This paper clucidates 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 'succesful 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 clixirs, 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-185
Number of pages21
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003


  • Agelessness
  • Anti-ageing
  • Bipolar ageism
  • Place-based images and scripts
  • Retirement industry
  • Successful ageing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Three faces of ageism: Society, image and place'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this