Studies show (sometimes): what we know 1


“Studies show” – you’ve read that here before. My New Old Self often cites research findings from studies on ageing. Studies can offer revelations and insights. Sometimes, however, they seem to simply confirm the intuitively obvious.

meme on new study shows

Internet meme mocking belief in what studies show (credit:

Like a recent study revealing that pop music lyrics show “negative representations” of older people. Duh, our youth-loving, age-denying society is full of negative representations of ageing. So why wouldn’t this be reflected in pop music? Especially since the songs criticised for stereotyping ageing are mainly sung by those who know nothing about getting old: the youth.

“I hope I die before I get old!” sang Roger Daltrey of The Who in 1965, famously stuttering through “My G-g-g-generation” and vowing to kill himself before he turned 30.

“My Generation” lyrics by Pete Townshend

People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

Why don’t you all f-fade away (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m just talkin’ ’bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)

But stuff you say in your 20s doesn’t always pan out. Daltrey and Townshend, who wrote the lyrics of this song named the 11th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, are in their 70s. As for “My Generation”, they licensed it to Pepsi.

Unsurprisingly, the study criticized the song for negatively representing ageing. “When I’m 64” by The Beatles also got a red flag.

“The lyrics ‘When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now, will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greeting, bottle of wine’ are actually questioning whether someone who is old is still loveable, and that’s concerning.” – Jacinta Kelly, head of the research team at Anglia Ruskin University school of nursing at Cambridge.

As the controversial Australian feminist Germaine Greer complained when her retrograde views of transgender people were criticised as hurtful:

“People are hurtful to me all the time. Try being an old woman.

– Germaine Greer, in a BBC interview

Maybe I’m just used to the aforementioned condition but the lyrics of “When I’m 64” do not seem hurtful; they seem to be musings as to whether a young couple will still be together many decades hence. The age of 64 must have seemed ancient to Paul McCartney when he wrote this, one of his first songs, at 16.

Fact-check: The song was not co-written by Paul and John, and the two were never BFFs as the nostalgic video might suggest. In fact, John famously said  “I would never even dream of writing a song like that.”

Now I’m wondering how many older people are upset that pop music is full of ageist stereotypes. Since Studies Show that many people suffer from a condition causing them to listen to less and less pop music.

It’s called Taste Freeze. Not to be confused with the classic chain that sold soft-serve ice cream in my youth. (I’m imagining a Gilda Radner routine around confusing Taste Freeze with Tastee-Freez.)

Tastee Freez soft serve ice cream truck

Tastee-Freez (with only 4 E’s) had fast-food outlets and trucks.

Data from the music streaming website, Spotify, shows that women steadily listen to less pop music from the age of 13 to 49. Men’s listening, in contrast, was found to drop radically between their teens through their early 30s. (By the way, I would have shown you the link to the Spotify music streaming website but it tells me that “Spotify is currently not available in your country”.)

At this age musical taste is “locked in”, according to this cryogenic theory. As a result of Taste Freeze, many older people are condemned to spend the rest of their lives listening to “classics” and “Golden Oldies” from their youth. This research comes courtesy of a certain Ajay Kalia, whose position is described by Spotify as its Product Owner for Taste Profiles. That is one of those job titles that did not exist in my day. At least not outside the food industry.

So thanks to the Taste Profiler for what its Studies Show but I say No Thanks to Taste Freeze. I prefer my musical tastes unfrozen. I still like keeping an ear out for new music and discovering new musicians. These days it’s easier than ever, thanks to the digital marketing algorithm “If you like X, you might like Y.” This kind of recommendation is what drives internet sales of music, movies, books and many other products. Let us get to know your tastes, we are begged by pop-up ads. The more these companies can find out about what we like to buy, the more stuff they can recommend to us that is like what we already bought.

Not everyone subscribes to that algorithm, a notable exception being the heroine of Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (played by Maggie Smith in the film): “For those who like that sort of thing,” said Miss Brodie in her best Edinburgh voice, “That is the sort of thing they like.”

Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Maggie Smith as a Scottish girls’ school teacher in the 1930s, in this film from 1969.

Back to Taste Freeze and the “Like X, like Y” algorithm. Could it possibly serve as a kind of anti-freeze to protect older people from getting this dreaded geriatric affliction? I’m happy to find ways I can easily discover new music, and rediscover old favourites, whether buying songs online or doing it in ways that older people still do. Like buying CDs and watching music videos on TV. Studies Show that older people watch more TV than any other age group. In contrast to young people, many of whom have never owned a TV and watch everything on their big screen connected to the internet.

Notice I used the verb “buy” in connection with procuring music. I am not keen to be a Pirate, although I know that many young people have never paid for online music in their lives. With me it’s an Intellectual Property thing, being a writer myself. And being an older person.


One comment on “Studies show (sometimes): what we know

  1. Reply Lanna Apr 16,2016 10:50 pm

    So, its true, aging is not fun. Not only do old people not get respect from the young, but old people are not even particularly kind to each other. What’s going on here?

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