Ageism and how Misconceptions and Misinformation Play a Role
The content found in the media is considered a continuous reflection of the practices in society. The media influences daily interactions, and in this case, the manner in which individuals relate to older adults and the manner in which individuals view the aspect of getting old. It is common for print advertisements, television programs, and advertisements to depict older adults as a financial burden to society (Loos & Ivan, 2018). Some companies refrain from using older adults for fear of having their services and products being associated with the concept of being old. Such representations reinforce the stereotypes, mostly negative, about older adults and aging. As a result of these stereotypes, older adults tend to experience negative physical well-being, health status, cognitive performance, and self-esteem (Loos & Ivan, 2018). Further, media tools like newspapers, films, and even greeting cards play a key role in enhancing stereotypes about aging and should therefore be used to promote aging among the population.
Newspapers tend to emphasize the idea of successful aging, which comprises independence, physical youthfulness, and productivity. According to Rozanova, Miller & Wetle (2016), such ideals are not shared by all cultures. Therefore, constructing the idea of successful ageing is likely to devalue and negatively affect the well-being of individuals whose lifestyles and lives do not align with the ideal. This notion seems to blame older adults for their shortcomings when they fail to meet the ideal successful aging. Most newspapers in the US usually provide a blueprint for how individuals are supposed to age successfully.
For instance, in an article in the New York Times, emphasis was placed on individuals being smart consumers who need to make informed choices about what they eat and how they exercise and stay connected with others to ensure that they age gracefully and successfully (Brody, 2021). The author is an 80-year-old woman who looks relatively younger and more energetic than most of her peers. According to Rozanova, Miller & Wetle (2016), placing emphasis on the concepts of successful aging such as staying engaged and active and having a youthful body may provide a standard against which older adults compare themselves with their peers and the manner in which the society assesses them. Successful aging in newspapers promotes the cultural norms of postponing old age and even mortality. This is also evident in the rise in anti-ageing services and highly attractive products to individuals, particularly women. Therefore, whereas some newspapers do a good job of promoting healthy lifestyles that can maintain good health and promote longevity for people, such newspapers also serve to demonize the idea of getting old, which is often associated with frailty, being burdensome, and losing independence.
Greeting cards like birthday cards play a key role in promoting certain stereotypes about older adults. Such cards are considered as message carriers, gifts, and exchange objects (Zeman & Zeman, 2017). Birthdays are commonly celebrated when individuals are younger, but they begin to feel less happy about it as they grow older. At age 30, most individuals, particularly women, begin to feel that they have aged immensely. Birthday cards that are age-specific and stereotypical tend to overstate occurrences of Alzheimer’s disease, place emphasis on physical changes that come with old age, depict older adults as lacking sexual interest or having inappropriate sexual interest, and also portray them as cranky and unattractive (Dennis, 2021).
Some of the messages found in age-specific birthday cards include: “Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either,” and “You know you are getting older when it takes twice as long to look half as good” (Dennis, 2021). The list is endless, and it is evident that emphasis is placed on the cognitive, social, and physical decline that comes with growing older. These cards are normally meant to be humorous. However, such depictions only increase the fears about aging, and the older adults are made to feel even more worthless.
Furthermore, most of these cards have negative messages for women compared to men. Emphasis is commonly placed on unattractive physical changes for women, such as sagging breasts, sexual stagnation, declining intelligence as well as uselessness and unhappiness (Ellis & Morrison, 2016). Not all older adults experience such diseases as Alzheimer’s. These cards, therefore, only emphasize the negative stereotypes that society already has towards older adults.
Furthermore, one of the most powerful media tools is the television and film industry. According to Iversen and Wilinska (2020), media institutions like films are considered the main forces behind the reproduction of stereotypical images about old age and aging, leading to the solidification of cultural and social constructs regarding later life. There is a general underrepresentation of older adults in films and TV shows. Nonetheless, when included, most males are represented as wealthy, healthy, powerful, and intelligent, with an active sexual life. In contrast, females are often represented as lonely, physically unattractive, bitter, and vindictive, or the grandmother who is sweet but always idle, busy gossiping, and unintelligent, among others (Ellis & Morrison, 2016). Whereas most films depict older adults as annoying and incapable of taking care of themselves, others strive to change this notion by having more positive representations of older adults.
For instance, in the film “Grace and Frankie,” almost all the older adults represented, both male and female, are wealthy, productive, and sexually active. Grace and Frankie are successful businesswomen who strive to find some of the solutions to problems experienced in old age, such as sexual decline. They invented a device that would help women, particularly older women, experience sexual pleasure. They strive to show that individuals can still experience sexual pleasures even at old age. However, in the show, when Grace was advertising one of her products, the company made use of some filters to make her face look younger in order for the product to be more appealing to a young population. By doing so, it was expected that more sales would be made. This action reinforced the stereotype of old age as unattractive. Such themes are common in TV shows and films.
Age is among the first traits individuals notice about others when they encounter them. From the perceived age that individuals form, they make a negative or positive inference about their physical, cognitive, and social competencies, which then guide their behaviors towards them. Individuals are made to believe that they are successful agers when they look nothing like their age when they are more youthful, energetic, productive, and even sexually active. This is because the media portrays aging as something that comes with cognitive, physical, and social decline, which are things to be shunned off. The media is among the most powerful tools used to form stereotypes about old age. Older adults are often underrepresented in the media. It is important to make use of media tools to eliminate negative stereotypes about old age and encourage aging and satisfaction with aging, which will enhance the general well-being of the population
Brody, J. (2021, September 13). How to Age Gracefully. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/13/well/live/stupid-things-i-do-when-get-old-book.html
Dennis, H. (February 21, 2021). Why there’s nothing funny about ageist greeting cards. Daily News. https://www.dailynews.com/2021/02/21/why-theres-nothing-funny-about-ageist-greeting-cards/
Ellis, S. R., & Morrison, T. G. (2016). Stereotypes of ageing: Messages promoted by age-specific paper birthday cards available in Canada. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 61(1), 57-73.
Iversen, S. M., & Wilinska, M. (2020). Ageing, old age and media: Critical appraisal of knowledge practices in academic research. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life, 14(1), 121-149.
Loos, E., & Ivan, L. (2018). Visual ageism in the media. In Contemporary perspectives on ageism (pp. 163-176). Springer, Cham.
Rozanova, J., Miller, E. A., & Wetle, T. (2016). Depictions of nursing home residents in US newspapers: successful ageing versus frailty. Ageing & Society, 36(1), 17-41.
Zeman, Z., & Zeman, M. G. (2017). For Your Great and Important Day: Old Age, Humor and Online Birthday Cards. Narodna umjetnost, 1(54), 49-67.
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We often see older adults in television shows and commercials for products. Stereotypes about older adults persist on television, in movies, and in advertisements as well. We read about older adults in books and in print media, hear about them in jokes, and see how they are depicted in greeting cards.
For you Week 1 Individual Paper:
Research three unique mediums which depict older adults in media. You may consider television, movies, the greeting card industry, or newspapers as a few examples. Look for stereotypes, including examples of ageism and explain how the older adult is portrayed in each selected medium. Use specific examples of TV shows, movies, etc. to discuss and describe the depiction of the older adult positively or negatively.
Include an explanation of ageism and how misconceptions and misinformation play a role in it.
Write a 700- to 1,400-word analysis of your findings. No more no less.
Format your assignment according to APA guidelines.
Submit your assignment.