Popular sheet music issued in the United States from 1830 to 1980 shows a clear preference for youth and often portrays the elderly with fear, concern and ridicule, a study shows.
Reviewing more than 15,000 pieces of sheet music and titles, reviewers Elias S. Cohen and Anna L. Kruschwitz of the Community Services Institute Inc., of Narbeth, Pa., said a substantial majority of those dealing specifically with the elderly showed them in a distinctly negative light."Old age is seen more as a time of failing capacities and diminished status than as a time of fulfillment and the `golden years,' " Cohen said.
Fear of old age, he said, is seen in such titles as "The Withered Tree," issued in 1850, and 1874's "Over the Hill to the Poor House."
The cover art illustrating many pieces of sheet music shows an exaggerated view of age," the study said.
In "Happy Family Polka," written in 1851, grandchildren of no more than 8 or 9 years old are shown. The parents appear to be in their early 30s, but the grandparents, who logically would be in their 50s, are shown as they would appear in their 70s or 80s.
The study was published in the June issue of The Gerontologist.