Researchers challenge the stereotype of ageing women

A unique project will be launched in Sheffield this week (27 November 2009) which aims to transform the way society views older women.

The project, entitled 'Look at me! Images of Women and Ageing', is being led by a team of researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Derby and by Eventus, a Sheffield-based cultural development agency. This is a two year collaborative project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme.

The team are currently calling on local women to take part in a series of creative, group workshops to be held in Sheffield to explore how women are represented in the media and society as they grow older. The workshops will investigate the messages these images give out and how they affect women's well-being. The workshop facilitators will then work with participants using photographic, art therapy, and video techniques to create new and alternative images of women and ageing.

The images produced in these workshops will eventually be exhibited in public venues, including art galleries and shopping centres, around Sheffield. At these events, members of the public will be asked to respond to the images they see to help inform the research team's understanding of how people react to stereotypes, and if there is any public appetite for images which offer an alternative view on ageing.

Dr Susan Hogan, Professor in Cultural Studies and Art Therapy at the University of Derby, and Rosy Martin, artist and photographer, will be running two sets of workshops. Clare McManus, Director of Eventus, will be working with two community groups of women to recruit professional photographers to help them capture their views of ageing. Dr Lorna Warren from the Department of Sociological Studies is the project director.

Commenting on the project, Dr Warren said: "This is a unique project which will challenge the current perceptions of older women in our society. The Second World Assembly on Ageing in 2003 recognised a need to challenge stereotyped images of ageing, particularly in relation to older women. The use of visual methods as a means of allowing older women to tell us their experiences of ageing is one way of doing this but, to date, 'ordinary' older women have not had the opportunity to either comment on, or create, their own images of ageing.

"We are currently looking for participants to sign up to our workshops. If you see yourself as an older woman, and are interested in these types of issues, then we want to hear from you. We are keen to hear about the experiences of all women, no matter what your background, and with no age-limits!"

Dr Susan Hogan added: "I have been developing skills and expertise in creative research methods and this project is very innovative methodologically in its use of art elicitation techniques as well as the use of phototherapy as a research tool and community artists."

Notes for Editors: The team is currently recruiting individual participants and community groups to the different workshops. These will take place in the first half of 2010, and the exhibitions of the images will be in 2011.

The New Dynamics of Ageing Programme is a seven year multidisciplinary research initiative with the ultimate aim of improving quality of life of older people. The Programme is a unique collaboration between five UK Research Councils - ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC and AHRC - and is the largest and most ambitious research programme on ageing ever mounted in the UK.

Eventus is a socially responsible organisation using the transformative power of the arts to make a difference to people and places.

For more information on the project, please contact:
Naomi Richards, N.M.Richards@sheffield.ac.uk, 0114 2226405

For further information please contact: Lauren Anderson, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2221046 or email l.h.anderson@sheffield.ac.uk