Introduction: Popular Culture’s ‘Silver Tsunami’

Imelda Whelehan, Joel Gwynne

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


For some years now, a’ silver tsunami’ in western societies has been forecast and its impact on business, healthcare and public policy is constantly interpreted and reinterpreted. A casual Internet trawl through such trend-watching shows a preponderance of dire warnings about the ‘burden’ of an ageing population who present a horrifying drain on resources, as if they are in essence vampirically drawing the lifeblood from the young. The old, like the undead, it is implied, prey on youth as if they are a different species. The most predictable stereotypes about ageing are deployed to ‘prove’ this idea that the older section of the population is purely a drain: older employees are technologically inept, and their decline in efficiency needs to be managed as they are ushered out of the office. The inverse of this argument is that today’s baby boomers are yesterday’s revolutionaries and radicals; theirs is a history of social change, political protests and questioning tradition; they are used to making demands and having them met. The old and ageing saturate the news in some ways, but they remain largely out of focus in popular culture. Unattractive portraits of the old affect the middle aged so that fear of ageing and the search for means to manage it ‘successfully’ inform its depiction in popular discourse and advertising. Clearly representational tropes depicting the old lag behind the realities of long-lived baby boomers, and some prominent elders in popular entertainment are bucking trends and remaining very visible in their fields — one need only think of Meryl S tree p in film or Betty White in both television and film.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAgeing, Popular Culture and Contemporary Feminism
Subtitle of host publicationHarleys and Hormones
EditorsImelda Whelehan, Joel Gwynne
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Electronic)9781137376534
ISBN (Print)9781349477715
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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