New research by the University of Manchester reveals the relationship between hair, hairstyles and age discrimination.

The research considers the social symbolism of hair, how it is managed and styled in later life, and what attitudes to appearance in general and hairstyling in particular reveal about ageism in contemporary culture (see also Age, Ageing and Society). The paper draws on findings from a two-year, nationwide, participative study of age discrimination in the United Kingdom, the Research on Age Discrimination (RoAD) project," researchers in Manchester, United Kingdom report.

"Using data collected by qualitative methods, including participant diaries and interviews undertaken by older field-workers, the paper explores narratives of image and appearance related to hair and associated social responses. The paper focuses on older people's accounts of the dual processes of the production of an image and consumption of a service with reference to hairdressing - and the dilemmas these pose in later life," wrote R. Ward and colleagues, University of Manchester.

The researchers concluded: "Considered in the context of the emerging debate on the aging body. The discussion underlines how the bodies of older people are central to their experience of discrimination and social margin-alisation, and examines the relevance of the body and embodiment to the debate on discrimination. A case is made for further scrutiny of the significance of hairdressing to the lives of older people and for the need to challenge the assumption that everyday aspects of daily life are irrelevant to the policies and interventions that counter age discrimination and promote equality."

Ward and colleagues published their study in Ageing & Society ('If I look old, I will be treated old': hair and later-life image dilemmas. Ageing & Society, 2011;31(Part 2):288-307).

For additional information, contact R. Ward, University of Manchester, School Nursing, Midwifery & Social Work, Jean McFarlane Bldg, University of Pl, Oxford Rd., Manchester M13 9PT, Lancs, United Kingdom.