How does society perceive people aged 55 and older?
One company asked asked graphic designers from 18 countries to retouch an image of a man and woman to the standards of their country’s ideals. (In seven of the 18 countries, more than one in four residents are 65 years old and older.)
In countries like Argentina, China, South Africa, and Japan, the artists who participated modified the model to make her appear significantly thinner. In almost every country, the graphic designer changed the model’s hair colour from a natural gray to a darker or lighter colour with no grey.
While artists from some countries left the model’s swimsuit the same, some designers made the women appear more modest. In Egypt, the artist had the model wear a burkini. Designers in Argentina, China, Japan, Peru, and Ukraine — either changed the colour or turned it into a bikini.
While artists from some countries (including the U.S.) smoothed over the model’s skin to reduce the appearance of dark spots or cellulite, some countries chose to depict her with a slightly darker, tanner complexion. In Argentina, Italy, Spain, and the Philippines, the model was shown with a darker skin tone, while her complexion was lightened in countries like Peru, South Africa, and the U.S.
What about men?
No fat. The male model was depicted as skinner in some countries, and in China, South Africa, and the U.S., artists made the proportions of the model’s waist smaller. In Egypt, the Philippines, and the Ukraine, the artists made the model appear more buff, but the clothing was altered to cover more of his body.
In Argentina the model was tweaked to have tattoos, and a few countries (including Colombia, Serbia, and Spain) added body hair.
On both sexes, the images modified by designers in Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, and the U.S. show a significant reduction in the presence of facial wrinkles and veins.
The study found that some countries, particularly the United States, Argentina, South Africa, and Peru, had dramatic standards of how men and women should look as they age. While they may have modified the models’ skin, weight, and muscle composition to make them appear younger, some designers used the opposite effect. Ukraine, Egypt, and the Philippines modified their models to look more appropriate for their age but making them heavier, adding wrinkles in the appropriate places, and letting their grey hair show.