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Women’s magazines are widely read in Canada. The popularity of such magazines is significant because critical gerontologists, primarily drawing on content analyses of the magazines, often argue that these publications convey problematic messages about ageing. This article broaches the subject of women’s magazines and ageing from a different vantage point, that of the older woman reader herself. This audience-centred research draws on 21 semi-structured interviews with Canadian women over the age of 55. The study examines what older women say about the ageing-related content of women’s magazines, along with what they say about how, when, and why they read these magazines. Findings illustrate that participants are aware of the inadequate and unrealistic representations of older women in women’s magazines. Nonetheless, they value the publications as a source of practical information on a variety of topics and as a light and undemanding source of entertainment and relaxation. The study reveals how participants assess and deploy magazine contents and characteristics in ways that contribute to, and are informed by, their lives and identities as older women. Against the broader cultural context of ageism, using and talking about women’s magazines enables the participants to position themselves as knowledgeable and informed on a variety of topics and in multiple interactions, both in explicit reference to the magazines themselves and more generally in their lives.


Originally published in Ageing & Society, doi:10.1017/S0144686X20001129 [Cambridge University Press]

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