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Monday, June 23, 2014

Ageism Humor and Songs by Erdman Palmore ISBN

Ageism Humor and Songs[1]

In 1971 I published the first study of attitudes toward aging as shown my humor.  This was a content analysis of 264 jokes about aging and elders, classified in terms of subject matter, gender, activity, and positive versus negative views of aging.   More than half of the jokes reflected a negative view of aging or elders, and only one-quarter were entirely positive toward aging.
     Since then several other studies have done content analysis of jokes, cartoons, and birthday cards about aging.  They all reached similar conclusions: that the majority of humor reflects or supports negative attitudes toward aging, and that positive humor about aging is rare.
    Even jokes that are judged to be “positive” often depend on a contradiction of negative stereotypes for their humor. For Example

One old lady tells her friend “ I didn’t sleep well last night because a man kept pounding on my door.”
“Why didn’t you open the door?”
“What and let him out?”

  This s funny only because of the stereotype that assumes that old ladies are not interested in sex.  Thus even “positive” jokes often assume negative stereotypes.

In summary, most humor about ageing tends to support negative ageism.  Just as there are racist and sexist jokes, there are ageist jokes.  Most of the tellers and listeners are not conscious of their ageist implications.  This may even increase the joke’s impact on the listener’s unconscious attitudes.

     Similarly, a recent analysis of over 300 pieces of sheet music related to ageing found that a substantial majority presents a negative view of aging and old age.

[1]  Material for this post comes from: Ageism: Negative and Positive. It was produced by Erdman Palmore in Ageism Negative and Positive   ISBN  0-8261-7000-5

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