Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Changing the Perceptions of Ageism Through Positive Media
One of the questions I ask my students at the beginning of the semester is to quickly tell me characteristics of someone the students consider to be old. I typically get responses that involve wrinkles, grey hair, use of assistive mobility devices and the like. I will sometimes ask them to tell me about positive aging representations in television and movies. In the past someone would mention the Golden Girls, now I'm not so sure current generations of students are familiar with the show, so instead I expect someone to mention Grace and Frankie.
To this point, I was quite interested in the project between AARP and Getty Images, Media Image: Age Representation in Online Images. The report from AARP reveals the common use of negative images in media to portray elders.
Visual portrayals and stock photography build and reinforce stereotypes. The current landscape of online images does not accurately reflect the 50-plus population. This portrayal may exacerbate ageism in the workplace by rarely showing adults age 50-plus at work or with technology but rather as isolated or dependent on others for assistance. Images are often intended as heartwarming, showing younger people helping the 50-plus, but this portrayal has unintended consequences.This media scan suggests that visual representations need to reflect greater diversity and authenticity. Specifically, more images are needed that portray older adults as independent and actively engaged in their communities. In addition, more images are needed that show the 50-plus in work settings and using technology with confidence.
Here are some of the key findings from AARP's study
- Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. are 50 and older, but only 15 percent of the random sample of images studied showed people in this age group. That's fewer than 1 in 7 images.
- Adults 50-plus are portrayed in a positive light 72 percent of the time. That's much less than people 49 or younger, who are featured in a positive light 96 percent of the time.
- Although 1 in 3 people in the U.S. labor force are age 50-plus, only 13 percent of online media images show a middle-aged or older adult in a work setting.
To remedy this, AARP & Getty have launched an online collection of positive stock aging that can be licensed for use, AARP and Getty Images Launch Photo Collection to Fight Ageism.
To fight ageism and illustrate the active lifestyles of adults age 50-plus, AARP has joined with Getty Images in launching a collection of more than 1,400 stock photos available for a fee to media outlets, ad agencies and other firms.
The Disrupt Aging Collection features photos of older Americans as vibrant and engaged, some of whom are singing, skiing, swimming in the sea, traveling abroad, playing team sports and hoisting adult beverages with their friends at the beach.
Check out the photos here. Now, if only they were free....
I'm not sure what happened to the post I was typing, so I will repeat:
While I agree whole-heartedly that images of aging are skewed toward frail and dependent stereotypes, a counter emphasis on active, productive elders will only solve part of the problem. The bigger problem is that the human value and dignity of older persons who are indeed frail and disabled gets lost. Until our eyes can see the dignity, beauty, and value of those persons, the unfortunate stereotypes will remain.
Posted by: Charlie Sabatino | Oct 1, 2019 6:36:46 AM