Through global movements such as Me Too and Black Lives Matter, racism and sexism have been thrust to the fore in recent years. Ageism, however, is a widespread and insidious problem that often goes unaddressed. Negative stereotyping in the media and advertising acts to compound ageist attitudes and embeds the idea that people in later life are frail and vulnerable.
To challenge this mischaracterisation, the Centre for Ageing Better created an age-positive image library specifically designed to depict over-50s in a positive and representative way. By making this resource free to use and open to everyone, the organisation hopes to encourage a societal shift in the way ageing is perceived and portrayed.
Planning for the library started in the summer of 2020, with the charity choosing to adapt its pre-existing digital asset management platform, ResourceSpace, to host the images. It then identified themes and sourced photographers. Most importantly, the centre chose to use volunteers for the photoshoots, allowing them to have creative input and lead using their lived experience to help depict older people more accurately.
The charity uses its website and social media channels, paid advertising and other charity organisations to promote the resource. To reach the widest audience possible, it partnered with one of the world’s largest free image libraries, Pexels.
At present, the ResourceSpace platform hosts more than 1,000 original images and has had almost 50,000 downloads since the library was launched in January 2021. The Centre’s images on Pexels have received 6.9 million views and 16,500 downloads.
Demand for the service has come from a diverse range of organisations including universities, football clubs and community groups, with some as far afield as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Having set up the library with an initial budget of £50,000, the Centre for Ageing Better is looking to develop the resource further over the coming years to continue to challenge stereotypes of not only age but also of gender, race, disability and sexuality of older people.
Charity Awards judge Cathy Phelan-Watkins felt that the project’s mission of countering the toxicity of unrepresentative and unrealistic image-making was an important one: “It is pervasive, it is endemic, and it is very, very damaging. We need more of this to counter the likes of Instagram and Facebook,” she said.
CC Reg no. 1160741