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Representations of ageing in the media

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Abstract

This chapter reviews research on representations of older people and ageing in print and TV media, focusing on advertising. Findings from content analytic studies are summarised and a case is then made for the necessity for more context sensitive research. Media discourses are related to assumptions and aspirations regarding the lifespan and lifestyles at older age: 'positive' portrayals reveal limited depictions of ageing. Representations in advertising provide a rich resource for cultural gerontologists, but these need to be understood as highly context specific cultural constructs that offer versions of the 'reality' of older age for very specific purposes.
Representations of Ageing in the Media
Virpi Ylänne
Abstract
This chapter reviews research on representations of older people and ageing in print
and TV media, focusing on advertising. Findings from content analytic studies are
summarised and a case is then made for the necessity for more context sensitive
research. Media discourses are related to assumptions and aspirations regarding the
lifespan and lifestyles at older age: ‘positive’ portrayals reveal limited depictions of
ageing. Representations in advertising provide a rich resource for cultural
gerontologists, but these need to be understood as highly context specific cultural
constructs that offer versions of the ‘reality’ of older age for very specific purposes.
Key words for index:
media, television, print media, advertising, stereotypes of ageing, representation,
content analysis, grey market, active ageing, successful ageing, consumerism, humour
and ageing
Interest in the nature and the possible effects of media portrayals of older adults has
been growing in recent years within communication and media studies, as well as in
social and cultural gerontology. Inappropriate and inaccurate negative representations
are seen to affect negative stereotypic attitudes and expectations about older people
among younger and older consumers alike (Gerbner 1998, Mares and Cantor 1992),
potentially lowering older people’s self-esteem (Harwood 1997). Positive and more
diverse images are regarded as desirable, especially for older media users, in
supporting positive self identity. In the twenty-first century, the visibility of older
people and their positive portrayal in the media, including advertising, have - arguably
- increased. But media and advertising depictions about ageing and older age continue
to be somewhat limited. In particular, what might be considered positive portrayals
can turn out to be more ambiguous in their constructions of older age than might at
first appear.
This chapter will review recent research on representations of older people in print
and TV media, focusing mainly on advertising. Firstly, some findings from content
analytic studies will be summarised and evaluated for their interpretative rigour.
Secondly, some differences between advertising targeted at the ‘grey/silver market’
vis-à-vis other consumer groups will be considered. Some examples of qualitative
studies on advertising and media imagery will then be given. Lastly we will consider
salient discourses of ageing in the (advertising) media, and how these relate to cultural
gerontological concerns.
Content analytic research on older people in the media
There is a steadily growing body of work, especially in the US but also globally,
about how older people are portrayed on prime-time television (for example Harwood
and Giles 1992, Kessler, Rakoczy and Staudinger 2004, Kessler, Schwender and
Bowen 2010), films (for example Bazzini et al. 1997, Lauzen and Dozier 2005,
Robinson et al. 2007), documentaries (Robinson, Skill and Turner 2004), as well as in
theatre, dance and film (for example Barnes Lipscomb and Marshall 2010, Gullette
2004). Research on advertising has looked at print media (for example Carrigan and
Szmigin 1999, Miller et al. 1999, Robinson, Gustafson and Popovich 2008, Williams,
Ylänne and Wadleigh 2007, Williams, Wadleigh and Ylänne 2010) and television
advertising (for example Chen and Ylänne 2012, Prieler 2012, Prieler et al. 2011,
Simcock and Sudbury 2006), or both (for example Zhang et al. 2006). Research on
media and advertising portrayals of older people has typically adopted content
analysis as a method, and the chapter now summarises some of these findings.
Presence
Content analyses of media representations of older people record frequencies of
occurrence of such characters in a sample of representative data of, for example, print
or TV adverts. These are coded for categories such as gender, role prominence
(major/minor/background), setting (home/work/outdoors and so on), tone
(positive/negative/neutral) and the product advertised, among others. Generally
speaking, research from North America and Europe reports that older people
(typically defined as those over 50 years) are under-represented in the media
(including advertising) relative to their respective proportion of the population (for
example Roy and Harwood 1997, Simcock and Sudbury 2006). Under-representation
has been found to be particularly pertinent in relation to people over 65 (for example
Kessler et al. 2004). As regards advertising, Prieler, Kohlbacher and colleagues report
under-representation in Asian contexts, too, in TV adverts in Japan and South Korea.
For example, 6.1percent of TV adverts in Japan (in 2007) included people over 65,
whereas they comprised 20.2 percent of the actual population (Prieler 2012: 59). Less
prevalent under-representation was reported of older people in China (Zhan, Song and
Carver 2008). In Japanese TV adverts, older people, but especially older females,
were under-represented, echoing findings in Western contexts. In sum, evidence of
old age discrimination in the media and specifically in advertising is manifested in the
absence of senior characters in a variety of contexts.
Prominence
Presence (or absence) alone does not fully describe how prominent older characters
are in the media, though. That is why the status of the roles older characters play has
been examined, too. Some contrasting findings have emerged. It has however been
suggested that where older people do appear in print or TV adverts, they tend to be
cast in roles that indicate their use in indexing specific qualities of the product (such
as reliability) or the company (such as its long history) (for example Swayne and
Greco 1987, Williams et al. 2010). These are likely to be age-marked roles and
contexts (for example Miller, Leyell and Mazachek 2004). In other words, older
adults in adverts are often chosen for specific purposes, rather than just to represent
‘people’.
Positivity / negativity
Beyond presence and role prominence, older characters in the media have been coded
in terms of positive or negative portrayal, with negative depictions predominating in
the past. However, in advertising more specifically, despite under-representation,
positive portrayals of older adults are reported as more salient (for example Roy and
Harwood 1997). One reason for this may be the importance of positivity in
advertising in general, since positive associations with the product need to be
enforced. However, the rationale for coding an older character as ‘positively’
portrayed is not always clear in content analytic studies.
Products
As regards products, older people tend to appear in adverts for certain types of
products rather than others, reflecting stereotypical expectations about behaviour and
characteristics linked with older people as a social group. Older adults advertising
food, pharmaceutical products, health aids and financial / insurance products and
services have been found to be the most prevalent categories in both Western and
Eastern contexts (Williams et al. 2010, Prieler 2012).
Beyond content analysis
In content analytic studies images are broken down into components and portrayals
are divided into a set of discrete categories and trait-like dimensions. Thus we learn
that older people are portrayed positively/negatively, as healthy, or humorously and
so on, and how often this happens in a particular context. We are to assume that
frequency relates to importance or even impact on viewers/readers. While this
method has been effective in describing general trends and patterns, the contextual
complexity of the depictions is arguably lost. The result is rather a-contextual lists
about the nature of portrayals, but with little indication of the connections between the
items. We therefore have no clear understanding about older people as portrayed for
example in relation to different types of positive and negative characters in specific
contexts.
To deepen our understanding of portrayals of older people in advertising we can
analyse images according to more complex stereotypical categories in order to know
what kinds of stereotypes are being used. This was done by Miller, Leyell and
Mazachek (2004), who used stereotypes classified by Hummert and colleagues (1994)
to examine portrayals on TV adverts. The most commonly depicted stereotype they
found was that of ‘adventurous’ Golden Ager, followed by the Perfect Grandparent
and the Productive Golden Ager (in Hummert and colleagues’ taxonomy, these are
positive stereotypes held by people of all ages: the Perfect Grandparent is kind,
loving and family oriented, and the Golden Ager lively, adventurous and alert).
Although this research helps to elaborate our understanding of these portrayals, Miller
and colleagues use of Hummert’s stereotypes applies a coding system that is given
‘a-priori’ from a source not originally developed in an advertising context. Research
carried out by Williams and colleagues (2010), in contrast, sought to devise a
typology that emerged from advertising materials (UK magazine adverts) themselves.
The six types were labelled as: Golden-Ager; Perfect Grandparent; ‘Legacy’/
‘Mentor’ themes; Coper; Comedic and Celebrity Endorser.
The label ‘Golden-Ager’ described older people portrayed as full of zest, often having
glamorous and luxurious lifestyles, in other words, prototypical media representations
of ‘third agers’. ‘Perfect Grandparents’ were shown with grandchildren, sometimes
depicting several generations, often in close-ups of smiling, happy families. ‘Legacy’
themes referred to older persons depicted with ‘gravitas’ and status, typically in
mentor roles with implied experience and wisdom (and these tended to be older men).
‘The Coper’, on the other hand, had a problem such as a (minor) disability - but was
coping with it because of the product being sold, and Comedic’ older people were
those depicted in humorous situations. ‘Celebrity Endorsers’ were well known older
adults in the public eye who endorsed products, typically acting as positive role
models. These categories were largely confirmed by audience research with
respondents across age groups. We cannot correlate these types of portrayals with
positive / negative images in a straightforward way, although negative depictions
mostly linked with the ‘Coper’ type, and positive depictions with all the others, with
the ‘Comedic’ category being more ambiguous. In order to evaluate the
representations and their potential effects, it is also important to consider other
contextual factors, such as the target audience of the adverts. We will now move on to
discussing one such study.
Effects of advertising targets
Williams, Ylänne, Wadleigh and Chen (2010) investigated UK magazine adverts
depicting older adults, comparing adverts in Saga Magazine (a glossy, subscription-
only high circulation magazine for the 50+ audience) with those appearing in ten
general readership magazines. The main differences were the frequency of adverts
containing (an) older model(s), their prominence as central characters and product
categories.
Predictably, Saga contained by far the most such adverts by number, although older
people featured as central (as opposed to secondary or peripheral) characters most
often in all the magazines (including Saga). Golden Ager’ was the most frequent type
of portrayal in both Saga and other magazines, followed by ‘Coper’ and ‘Perfect
Grandparent’ in Saga but ‘Mentor’ and ‘Comedic’ in other magazines. Older adults
were most commonly used in adverts for help/support and medical/health products in
Saga, but for food and drink, followed by entertainment and technological products in
other publications. Adverts in Saga were less likely to feature older people in
humorous situations and more likely to feature them in home and family as opposed
to outdoor settings, as was the case in the other magazines.
These observations were linked to the products advertised and their target audiences.
Over 60 percent of all the adverts were aimed at older consumers in some way (coded
as ‘age exclusive’) and, predictably, the vast majority of these appeared in Saga. It
was mainly in general readership magazines that older protagonists featured
‘incidentally’ and not just as ‘tokens’ of age as is often the case in advertising, where
older adults index longevity or experience, for example. In these magazines, ‘age
contrastive’ adverts, which distanced the older character from the audience, also
appeared (and some of these accounted for the humorous depictions). ‘Age-targeted’
advertising is a somewhat fuzzy concept, though, as some Saga readers might not
self-identify with the imagery in adverts for help and support aids, for example, but
instead align as potential buyers of such goods for older family members. In general,
the adverts in Saga can, however, provide opportunities for in-group identification for
older readers. Media and advertising portrayals are one resource for ageing
individuals to learn what it is like to be old.
Discourses and images of ageing in the media
Third Age publications
In the UK, magazines such as Yours, Choice and Saga Magazine have, for some time,
proclaimed as their mission to counter-influence negative stereotypes of older age.
They present editorial and advertising content that fosters a positive self-image and a
healthier and more dynamic lifestyle for older persons (Bytheway 2003, Featherstone
and Hepworth 1995). Featherstone and Hepworth’s (1995) longitudinal (1972-1993)
case study of the Choice magazine (formerly Retirement Choice) is a good example of
the emergence of (post)modern notions of successful ageing, dominated by images of
middle-aged and older adults looking relatively glamorous, healthy, youthful, and
indeed to an extent ‘ageless’. However, as Featherstone and Hepworth pointed out,
the emphasis in the magazine on a lifestyle based on consumerism is out of financial
reach for many older people, and there is little engagement with the problems of later
life that are still an everyday reality for many. At the same time, the primary ‘third
age’ target audience and the aspirational function of the magazine(s) need to be taken
into account in analyses and critique of these media, since the ‘reality’ they present is
heavily mediated and also driven by advertising agendas to appeal to a specific
demographic. Such publications exemplify ‘the commercialized retirement culture’
(Katz 2013: 36) that has become widespread.
Mediated constructions of successful ageing were also examined in a more recent
study by Lumme-Sandt (2011), who examined images of ageing in a Finnish 50+
magazine (ET), focussing on their potential influence on individuals’ self-perception.
Three dominant discourses emerged in the human interest articles: freedom from
work and predetermined roles, including possibilities for new identities; activity,
which, besides physical activity, also included retaining mental agility and curiosity
into older age; and looking good/taking care of one’s appearance, which in more
recent (2006) issues also included praise for ‘graceful’ ageing, and not emulating
youth. These themes which promote activity and self-care are echoed in much third
age marketing more globally (Katz 2005, Chen and Ylänne 2012). Lumme-Sandt and
Uotila (2012) also comment on the coverage (in ET) of love and intimate relationships
at older age, which is emerging as a notable theme, albeit in a frame that is limited in
that it tends to construct the maintenance of intimate relationships (see also Marshall
2010) and successful coupledom as markers of successful ageing.
Advertising
Ageing well and health issues are frequent themes in advertising for older cohorts.
Ylänne, Williams and Wadleigh (2009), in their examination of adverts with a health
and well-being focus, depicting older adults (in a cross section of UK magazines),
found an underlying assumption of decline with age as well as risk in the data.
Prominent themes in the adverts, achieved via linguistic and semiotic means, included
the maintenance of independence and quality of life; managing risks; staying healthy
and active; taking pride in appearance; and discourses of responsibility and choice.
Advertising frequently draws on associations between increasing age and health
concerns (and this partly accounts for older adults appearing in such adverts) and
these adverts emphasise the need to take control of one’s health as an ageing person.
In this respect, the discourses echo those found in anti-ageing adverts which in
addition to idealising youth and presenting old age as disease, also promise control
and even ‘cure’ for ageing and its associated physical and visible signs (Calasanti,
Sorensen and King 2012).
The body and body work (and beauty work) has acquired a central position in the
representations and discourses of ageing. Successful ageing is equated with active
ageing which is positively presented as the aspirational ideal of ageing well,
especially in media and advertising targeting the over 50s. This can be interpreted as a
type of age denial, potentially creating a binary opposition between successfully and
unsuccessfully ageing bodies. Gilleard and Higgs (2013: 166) propose, however, that
‘[i]n being minded to bother about one’s body, individuals can feel that their body
still matters’. The ‘new ageing’, Gilleard and Higgs suggest, entails not so much
clinging onto youth, but wishing to retain coherence in one’s identity, life narrative
and everyday practices by a ‘generation that has learned to privilege choice,
autonomy, self-expression and pleasure’ (ibid.). Diachronic coherence is undoubtedly
important for ageing selves, but the ideology of resisting change seems ubiquitous in
mediated representations of ageing.
Besides looking at the ideologies, discourses and images of ageing that can be
identified in adverts (and media more generally), cultural gerontologists might also
profitably investigate how and for what purposes older adults feature in specific
advertising campaigns. An example of a recent qualitative study by Yoon and Powell
(2012) focused on two campaigns by leading UK stores, Tesco (supermarket) and
Marks & Spencer (M&S; major high street retailer), featuring older celebrities.
Tesco’s ‘Dotty campaign’ (1995-2005) featured an ‘ever-challenging, difficult,
demanding, interfering, annoying, bossy and fanatical’ (Yoon and Powell 2012: 1329)
older female character played by the British actor, Prunella Scales. The campaign
helped improve the company’s fortunes in the 1990s and construct an image of a
helpful, proactive supermarket, even in the face of the most demanding customer,
embodied in ‘Dotty’. This was an example of a celebrity acting a part based on an
‘invented’ character, who had a broad audience appeal, but who nevertheless
functioned as ‘perpetuating and reinforcing the negative stereotyping of older people’
(ibid.) - especially women - and drawing on the popular negative mother-in-law
theme (which, in the UK context, comprises demanding and somewhat cantankerous
qualities) in the story-line.
M&S, on the other hand, have (since 2005) reaped the benefits of the ‘Twiggy effect’,
featuring the older female model Twiggy as a celebrity endorser in their advertising,
and providing babyboomers with a potential ‘projective identification’ (Yoon and
Powell 2012: 1330) with someone they would have recognised since her supermodel
days in the 1960s. ‘[L]ocating Twiggy within a group of younger models ... taps into
the recognition that one can aspire to look one’s best irrespective of age’, positioning
‘consumption as a process’ (1329-1330) across the lifespan. The appeal, especially to
older females, relies on Twiggy not standing out as an ‘other’. Whereas the Tesco
campaign used a traditional, negative stereotype of an older woman that consumers at
large recognised, the M&S campaign provided aspirational images of a celebrity. A
qualitative approach to data highlights different types of portrayal and the ways in
which specific campaigns use older models in ways that go beyond the
categorisations used in simple content analysis approach.
Humour
Humour contributes to the regulation of social norms and the status of social groups
relative to one another, making an examination of humorous media advertising
portrayals of older people worth-while. Williams (unpublished) investigated over 300
such UK TV adverts (from 2000s) and these revealed a variety of depictions.
‘Cheeky, fun and playful’ older characters were portrayed engaging in light hearted
teasing of others, often in intergenerational (family) contexts, and they had the upper
hand, constituting ‘superiority humour’. Incongruity humour’ arose from a humorous
violation of expectations which followed the setting up - semiotically and
behaviourally - of an extreme stereotype of an older person (such as a ‘little old
lady’). Denigratory humour confirmed negative expectations about older people, such
as their ‘grumpiness’ or declining cognitive abilities. This emerged as a predominant
theme in these adverts. Lastly, mocking humour, a more extreme ridiculing, was
typically found in adverts targeting a young (especially male) audience (see also
Miller et al. 2004). These sometimes featured repulsive and disgusting imagery,
designed to shock (young) viewers and to distance themselves from the older
characters. Whilst viewers are invited to laugh with the older characters in the first
type of portrayal, the others typically evoke laughing at them. The relationship
between humour and positive/negative stereotyping can be ambiguous, however,
especially as the multimodal medium of TV adverts enables humour to be achieved
by a variety of means (such as sound, image, language). Although we can laugh at
extreme stereotypes in adverts as being out-dated and inaccurate (‘laughable’), it
seems advertisers in the twenty-first century have not altogether abandoned the use of
humorous negative, ageist, caricatures when it comes to older people (see also Low
and Dupuis-Blanchard 2013), so that these can still provide categories for interpreting
older age (especially in publications targeting younger consumers).
Conclusion
Despite global population ageing, older people are still under-represented in media
and advertising contexts. Furthermore, their representations are limited in terms of the
roles they occupy, the products they advertise and the stereotypes that are evoked in
the representations. Older characters often index qualities such as experience,
longevity and traditional family values. These roles are likely to have positive
connotations. But especially in adverts targeting younger audiences, older adults can
appear as targets of ridicule or as extreme caricatures that rely on negative
associations with ageing, ‘othering’ older people. Third age marketing, on the other
hand, provides aspirational images of successful ageing tied up with consumerist
lifestyles. Although the imagery of active and healthy ‘golden agers’ appears positive,
it also promotes idealistic notions of individual agency in the management of the
ageing process. Negative imagery also works to this end in highlighting age-related
risks as problems for which solutions are provided. Variation in ageing successfully
or in lifestyles is not promoted in advertising.
Fifty plus marketing and its representations of older adults has to be interpreted in a
socio-historical context, taking into account cohort effects. These, together with
general aims of advertising and older adults’ reported self perception of lower
subjective and cognitive age than chronological age (and advertisers’ assumption of
this), go some way in accounting for the under-representation, especially of people
over 65, in advertising. So although representations of older people in advertising and
media more generally can provide a rich resource for cultural gerontology, the images
therein are highly context specific cultural constructs that offer versions of older age
for very specific purposes.
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... The identities and lifestyles that are promoted in mass media inform individuals' lives as well as others' reactions. When older people appear in the media, the purpose tends to be the endorsement of age-marked qualities, roles or products (Ylänne, 2015). They are coded in positive or negative portrayals (Ylänne, 2015), for instance, frailty and loss, which is increasingly being replaced by wisdom and experience or, most recently, agelessness or 'successful ageing' (Uotila et al., 2010), a broad concept that endorses 'ageing well' as the maintenance of good health and active engagement with life (Urtamo et al., 2019). ...
... When older people appear in the media, the purpose tends to be the endorsement of age-marked qualities, roles or products (Ylänne, 2015). They are coded in positive or negative portrayals (Ylänne, 2015), for instance, frailty and loss, which is increasingly being replaced by wisdom and experience or, most recently, agelessness or 'successful ageing' (Uotila et al., 2010), a broad concept that endorses 'ageing well' as the maintenance of good health and active engagement with life (Urtamo et al., 2019). Such absence or stereotyping is conspicuous in advertising and has also been observed in primetime television series (Kessler et al., 2004;Ylänne, 2015). ...
... They are coded in positive or negative portrayals (Ylänne, 2015), for instance, frailty and loss, which is increasingly being replaced by wisdom and experience or, most recently, agelessness or 'successful ageing' (Uotila et al., 2010), a broad concept that endorses 'ageing well' as the maintenance of good health and active engagement with life (Urtamo et al., 2019). Such absence or stereotyping is conspicuous in advertising and has also been observed in primetime television series (Kessler et al., 2004;Ylänne, 2015). Writers of Finnish print mass media were found to adopt two different representations of old age: an active, productive third age and a passive, dependent fourth age (Uotila et al., 2010). ...
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There is a growing body of interdisciplinary literature on the representation and construction of ageing masculinities; however, there is a lack of specific analysis of older men's responses to cultural images of ageing. It is important to examine how cultural meanings around ageing may inform older men's lived experiences, an underexplored aspect of gender and social relations. This article does so and contributes to social gerontology and masculinity studies. It draws on focus group discussions and follow-up interviews or reflective diaries with seven men aged 65–73 years, varying in terms of relationship status and sexual orientation. The research forms part of an international study. It discusses the initial thematic findings, interpreted with reference to literature on ageing in culture and society, and hegemonic masculinities. The analysis identifies five primary themes: underrepresentation and stereotyping in media; diminishment of family role; transition from work to retirement; agency as opposed to confinement; and ageing as engaged and autonomous, illustrating some of the issues involved in the fluidity of masculinity over a lifetime. It highlights how representation can inform perceptions and experiences of growing older, and shows shifting masculine identities that negotiate hegemonic expectations as well as discourses about ageing. This study demonstrates how the participants’ modifications of hegemonic masculine and ageing identity interrogate and broaden these discourses, and opens avenues for future investigation.
... Older people on TV To start, it is important to note the underrepresentation of older people on TV. Content analyses in Europe, the United States of America and Asia found that older people are less present on screen than in society, both on prime-time TV (Signorielli, 2001(Signorielli, , 2004Kessler et al., 2004;Daalmans and ter Horst, 2017) and in TV advertising (Roy and Harwood, 1997;Simcock and Sudbury, 2006;van Selm et al., 2007;Prieler, 2012;Ylänne, 2015). This 'symbolic annihilation' (Gerbner and Gross, 1976;Rodan and Ellis, 2016) on TV seems to suggest that older people matter less to society in general. ...
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Research shows that older people tend to not only be underrepresented on television (TV), but also to be represented within a number of fixed types. These correspond to cultural myths about ageing, which emphasise vulnerability and decline but also increasingly stress the individual's responsibility for successful ageing. This paper analyses the representation of older people on Flemish public TV, using qualitative content analysis to identify patterns of representation in a sample of 44 programmes broadcast in 2019 and 2020, including the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. To complement our own analysis, we also interviewed eight experts on ageing. Our research shows that representations of older people on Flemish public TV tend to gravitate towards two types related to different age groups: vulnerable and passive old-old people (over 80 years old), particularly those in nursing homes who feature prominently in reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic; and dynamic and active young-old people (65–80 years old), connected to the ideals of successful ageing. The two predominant types correspond to cultural myths about ageing and are also connected to recurrent themes: sexual intimacy, loneliness and death. Our research highlights the need for a more diverse representation, reflecting the variety of individual life conditions and the functional age of older people.
... Given the important role of pictures, especially in the media (e.g. Loos and Ivan 2018;Ylänne 2015), we focus on these two opposite ways older persons are visually represented. We also pay attention to the impact of these two ways of visual representations by describing how pictures in both discourses can lead to 'visual ageism': 'the social practice of visually underrepresenting older people or misrepresenting them in a prejudiced way' (Loos and Ivan 2018: 164). ...
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This chapter analyses the important role of images depicting the well-being of older people. The focus is on two opposing ways in which they are visually represented: low and high well-being. Ageing is placed in a historical perspective from antiquity to the early modern period by exploring their historical roots in texts. This is followed by a specific historical and social semiotic analysis of the visual representation of low and high well-being related to older people, with an emphasis on the analysis of visual signs, focusing on the use of resources for their production, distribution, and consumption of communicative artefacts. This made it possible to get insight into the impact of historical images on the construction of older persons’ low and high well-being discourses in today’s society and their daily life.
... Disse aendringer er dog karakteriseret ved, at aeldre mennesker ofte repraesenteres i medierne for at lokke til forbrug af aktiviteter og produkter, der skal fremme selvopfyldelse og bremse aldring (Ylänne, 2015;Calasanti, Sorensen & King, 2012;Uotila, Lumme-Sandt & Saarenheimo, 2010). På trods af stigningen i positive billeder formidles stadig negative opfattelser af aldring, og aeldre mennesker forbindes med problemfelter som sygdom, forfald, afhaengighed og som en byrde for samfundet (Lundgren & Ljuslinder, 2011;Rozanova, 2006). ...
... The first branch of studies mainly focuses on examining age-related stereotypes in the media. Largely guided by theoretical perspectives like framing and discourse theories, these studies contribute to our understanding of the affective and cognitive manifestations of ageism by providing empirical evidence on how the media portrays older adults (Ylänne, 2015). A review of such studies found that while negative portrayals of older adults as senile, frail, and lonely have generally decreased, and that positive portrayal of older adults has increased over the decades, growth in positive portrayals was only seen for older adults in relatively good health . ...
... The first branch of studies mainly focuses on examining age-related stereotypes in the media. Largely guided by theoretical perspectives like framing and discourse theories, these studies contribute to our understanding of the affective and cognitive manifestations of ageism by providing empirical evidence on how the media portrays older adults (Ylänne, 2015). A review of such studies found that while negative portrayals of older adults as senile, frail, and lonely have generally decreased, and that positive portrayal of older adults has increased over the decades, growth in positive portrayals was only seen for older adults in relatively good health . ...
Article
Memes and meme factories are increasingly the new fronts for ageism online. To address the lack of studies exploring memetic expressions of ageism, this study utilized multimodal discourse analysis to analyze 98 image macros from five meme factories in Singapore. Expressions of ageism were consistently found in how the meme visually and discursively portrayed older adults, and three ageist themes of infantilization, barbarization, and fetishization were identified. Memes that infantilized older adults often portrayed them as immature and illiterate despite their age and emphasized their dependence on others. Memes that barbarized older adults portrayed them as being uncultured or having inferior cultural tastes, while memes that fetishized older adults positioned them as an object of sexual fetish. The intersections of ageism with sexism, classism, and racism were also noted. Practical implications of these findings were discussed, and several recommendations were offered for meme factories to reduce visual ageism.
... vgl. Rozanova 2010;Ylänne 2015). Wenn sie als produktiv und ressourcenreich dargestellt werden, geschieht dies meist überzogen und ohne Charakteristika von hohem Alter und die Darstellungen beziehen sich stärker auf mittleres Alter, sodass es zu starken Differenzierungen von "jungen Alten" und "alten Alten" (vgl.Karl 2012) kommt. ...
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Erste empirische Studien aus den ersten Monaten der Corona-Epidemie im Jahr 2020 zur medialen Repräsentation älterer Menschen deuten auf eine Konjunktur des Stereotyps des verletzlichen, einsamen und abhängigen alten Menschen hin. Die Stereotype rund um Schutz- und Hilflosigkeit sind seit langem feste Bestandteile der medialen Berichterstattung über ältere Menschen. Der vorliegende Beitrag greift diesen Aspekt kritisch auf und sammelt erste Studien zu diesem Thema rund um den Kontext der Corona-Pandemie. Ein aktuelles Forschungsprojekt soll in einem interdisziplinären Rahmen noch mehr zur Erforschung von Altersrepräsentation in einer historischen Ausnahmesituation beitragen.
... For example, Ellison (2014) found agelessness and transcendence of age to be significant themes within anti-aging skin care advertising, and Edström (2018) found older people, in particular older women, to be largely invisible from news, fiction, and advertising. Finally, Chivers (2003Chivers ( , 2017, Vasil and Wass (1993), and Ylänne (2015) have shown how popular Western media, culture, and literature often disempower and negatively portray older women in particular, describing older female bodies as repulsive, older minds as deteriorating, and older wisdom as irrelevant. Western youth appear to be exposed almost exclusively to older adults representing negatively stereotyped archetypes (Nelson, 2016). ...
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Ageism is pervasive and socially normalized, and population aging has created a need to understand how views of aging and of older people, typically considered to be people over the age of 65, can be improved. This study sought to understand how undergraduate students’ attitudes towards older adults and the aging process may be influenced after completing a typical, lecture-based undergraduate course on aging that lacked service-learning components. Two undergraduate student cohorts ( n = 40) at two Canadian universities participated in semi-structured focus groups/interviews, describing how the course may have impacted their perceptions of the aging process and of older adults. An iterative collaborative qualitative analysis demonstrated that course content stimulated a deeper understanding of the aging process, prompting a reduction in and increased awareness of ageism, and enhanced personal connection with aging, ultimately facilitating the development of an age-conscious student. Lecture-based courses focused on aging may be sufficient to facilitate positive attitude change among undergraduate students towards older adults and the aging process.
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This paper aims to explore whether personal stories told by older people online can be used to alleviate ageist attitudes among young people in South Korea. An experimental research design and survey were used to expose 318 respondents aged 18–35 to photographs and documentary-like personal accounts of older people borrowed from a social media page. The analysis shows that exposure to personal narratives told by older people has some effect in mitigating younger people’s ageist attitudes, with respondents who read stories told by older people showing lower ageism than those who read stories told by storytellers with no information about their age. The stories were more effective in reducing respondents’ emotional bias as compared to their impact on cognitive bias, predicted by the likability of a story. The findings corroborate media theories that suggest more hospitable online spaces and stories echoing older people’s voices. Education that exposes younger people to these contents may help to reduce intergenerational tensions.
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Background and objectives: Media discourses have the power to construct and perpetuate positive and negative aging images and influence public and individuals' attitudes. This study aims to critically examine the media portrayal of older persons' everyday information and communication technology (EICT) usage during the first and second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Research design and methods: A total of 51 articles published in three leading German newspapers between March 2020 and November 2020 were identified from the LexisNexis academic database. Data were analyzed employing critical discourse and thematic analysis. Results: EICT use was associated with youthful, consumption-orientated, and active lifestyles, while non-use was constructed as failures on the policy or individual level. The pandemic seemed to have acted as an amplifier, further exacerbating and perpetuating stereotypical, dichotomous, but also empowering aging images. Discussion and implications: Neo-liberal rational and binary distinctions of active users and non-users opened and encouraged critical discussions on positive aging trends, the concept of the third and fourth age, and aging-and-innovation discourses. Moreover, the crucial educative role of the media in raising awareness about power imbalances and reducing EICT-related ageism is stressed.
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Having and being in a relationship is a vital part of the lives of most adult people. However, old age is often seen as a time of loneliness, life without an intimate partner. Traditionally this has been due to widowhood, but nowadays, often, also due to divorce. The situation has changed so that nowadays among the 65–75 year-olds it is more usual to be a divorcee than to be a widow or a widower (Borell and Ghazanfareeon Karlsson, 2003). There is also a big difference in opportunities and restrictions between women and men in the ‘partner market’ in later life (de Jong Gierveld, 2002; Carr, 2004). For example, in Finland women over the age 73 are more often single than married, whereas men reach the same situation at the age of 88 (Statistics Finland, 2008).
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Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment outlines and develops an argument about the emergence of a new ageing during the second half of the twentieth century and its realisation through the processes of embodiment. The authors argue that ageing as a unitary social process and agedness as a distinct social location have lost much of their purchase on the social imagination. Instead, this work asserts that later life has become as much a field for not becoming old as of old age. The volume locates the origins of this transformation in the cultural ferment of the 1960s, when new forms of embodiment concerned with identity and the care of the self arose as mass phenomena. Over time, these new forms of embodiment have been extended, changing the traditional relationship between body, age and society by making struggles over the care of the self central to the cultures of later life.
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Sociologists Georg Simmel and Max Weber conceived the idea of lifestyle to identify the social connections between individualism and consumerism that emerged with modernity. Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens and others have given lifestyle critical relevance in their work by including questions of agency and structure in post-traditional society. However, the idea of lifestyle has also become central to gerontological studies and the caring professions around aging and their models of “active” and “successful” aging. At the same time, such models have neglected the theoretical and critical value of lifestyle as a concept for understanding age inequalities and the social determinants of health in later life. This article revisits the story of lifestyle in order to reinstate its importance to aging studies. The conclusion considers the example of falling for older people to illustrate how such a crucial issue is also an opportunity to think about lifestyle in critical and reflexive terms.
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This paper reports a content analysis of 778 television commercials. Commercials were examined for the presence of older adults. Commercials featuring older adults were then examined more closely to describe the nature of the portrayals. Consistent with previous research, older adults were shown to be underrepresented in the commercials examined, as compared to their presence in the population. This effect was particularly strong for older women and for members of ethnic minorities. However, older adults were found to be presented in a relatively positive light—as active, happy, and strong. In addition, older adults were shown to be least underrepresented in advertisements for financial services and retail chains, and most underrepresented in advertisements for automobiles and travel services. The results are discussed in terms of the changing position of the older adult consumer in the marketplace. Suggestions for future research are provided.
Chapter
Media images of older people have been studied for some years. There has been fairly extensive research into how older adults (typically defined as 50+) are portrayed in various media (see Robinson, Skill and Turner, 2004 for a review), such as TV programmes (Harwood and Giles, 1992; Harwood and Anderson, 2002; Kessler, Rakoczy and Staudinger, 2004), print (for example Ursic, Ursic and Ursic, 1986; Carrigan and Szmigin, 1998; Harwood and Roy, 1999; Robinson, Gustafson and Popovich, 2008) and TV adverts (for example Swayne and Greco, 1987; Roy and Harwood, 1997; Miller, Leyell and Mazachek, 2004; Simcock and Sudbury, 2006; Lee, Carpenter and Meyers, 2007). Much of this research has been conducted using content analysis and it has been suggested that although older people (especially women) are underrepresented in the media, advertising, as opposed to media in general, tends to depict older people positively rather than negatively (Harwood and Roy, 1999; Simcock and Sudbury, 2006). Furthermore, compared with advertisements in newspapers or magazines aimed at the general public, it has been suggested that adverts in those designed for older people are more likely to portray them in a favourable fashion (Roberts and Zhou, 1997; Carrigan and Szmigin, 1999; Williams et al., 2010).
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Age relations — organizational systems of inequality that privilege younger adults at the expense of old people (Calasanti, 2003) — serve to exclude old people from full citizenship. This notion of ageism goes beyond allusion to stereotypes and prejudices, and draws both from Butler’s (1969: 243) early definition as the ‘systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old’, and from Laws’ (1995: 112) argument that ageism is founded on ‘a set of oppressive social relations’. Rather than view ageism as attitude or ideas to contemplate, this perspective reveals it as group behaviours that contribute to intersecting relations of inequality by age, gender, class, sexuality, race and the like.
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A content analysis of 814 advertisements from three major television networks was conducted to assess the representation and role portrayal of senior citizens in television advertising. While 12 percent of the current U.S. population is over 65 years of age, only seven percent of the advertisements containing people utilized elderly characters. In the majority of commercials, the elderly are not typically cast in major roles, but instead appear most often in home settings with members of other age groups present. In those advertisements where older persons are portrayed as major role advisors about a product or service, the advisor is likely to be male.