Sing a Song of Aging: How Older Adults Are Depicted in Popular Music

The portrayal of older adults in popular culture is something that has an impact on the general populace and how it views the aging process and those currently experiencing it—for good and bad. A group of researchers recently examined some of today’s music on the radio and how it depicts age and aging identities. Specifically, researchers used a variety of lyric databases to qualitatively examine the text of songs that referenced older adults or the aging process. It is no surprise that they found mainly negative representations of age and the aged. On the other hand, the positive aging identities unearthed included a view of the older generation being more celebrated, and focused less on frailties and physical ailments.

Because popular music is a behemoth of culture, it has the ability to influence how younger generations view those older than themselves, and the ability to influence (in both positive and negative ways) the experience of being an older adult for those who are currently progressing through later life.

Some of the main takeaways the authors mentioned were that (a) current, popular music has the potential to have negative emotional and psychological consequences for older adults who choose to listen to its messages, (b) the musical texts and lyrics were predominately written by a much younger generation that could only imagine what older age must be like and had not experienced it yet, and (c) ongoing efforts in the music industry should include promotion of older adults to create musical texts from the perspective of one who has experienced older age. This would provide a level of authenticity about aging that popular music is currently lacking. It would also serve as an important outlet and opportunity to change the general conception of what it means to be an older adult in a way that will broaden and deepen understanding of the nuanced experiences that later life holds, and not merely water them down lyrically into a more digestible view for popular consumption.



Kelly J, Watson R, Pankratova M, et al. Representation of age and ageing identities in popular music texts. Journal of Advanced Nursing (2016).

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