Aging, the process of developing or growing old; the progression of changes in appearance (American Heritage Dictionary, 2007). The role of the media is to educate and inform as well as other masses; the senior population suffers greatly from negative stereotyping than any other age group. Some media outlets portray aging in a stereotypical way relating old age to death or disease. This essay reflects on how older Americans are portrayed through the different media outlets. Television shows and commercial advertisements, news and magazines are three types of media outlets that depict older Americans. Television definitely stereotypes the elderly as it relates to their mental capabilities as well as their physical capabilities. Television shows and movie roles feature senior citizens through a lens of less value placing emphasis on the burdens of growing old. These roles show seniors as passive, weak, simple minded and incapable of doing things on their own and not being able to take care of themselves.
For example an older movie called “The Cocoon” depicts older adults as dying and withering away until they found the fountain of youth and things that was done in their younger years, which now is a memory suddenly becomes everyday fascinations. It is not that seniors cannot function; it is more like they chose not to. Commercials advertise senior ageing creams that get rid of wrinkles all over the body especially under the eyes showing signs of aging while hair dying products gets rid of the unwanting grey; commercials also advertise different medical devices that can help seniors move around better or pick things up from a distance without moving out of their favorite chair. There are various commercials that advertiser life insurance or burial expenses. Another media outlet that depict older adults would be radio through entertainment for example when an older adult fall, they may not be able to pick themselves up and comedians will make a joke out of it with laughter.
The media has the power that will allow people to have a preconceived notion to an audience as truth; the media can decide what way of life is acceptable and what is not. Media plays a critical part in shaping and reflecting public opinion. There has been a widespread of negative attitudes about aging in print in such magazines as Time or Newsweek that displays photographs of seniors looking disoriented as if they were lost; given the impression they cannot care for themselves based on the articles content. In closing, The overall impressions that the media offers about the older adult is by emphasizing the vulnerabilities of seniors in such a manner that gives the impression that being old is the thing that we as humans most want to avoid, so beauty creams that are offered that can remove wrinkles, telephones that are made with large face buttons, hearing aids that are sold with the message that you don’t know what you’re missing are just selling points.
Many forms of plastic surgery are supposed to be the remedy for staying beautiful and looking young; Just about anything associated with getting older is portrayed as something people don’t want to happen. The unfortunate downside of this barrage of negative messaging about becoming older is that it reinforces the thought that being older is being unwanted and no longer valuable to a fast moving beautiful world of people whose desire is to stay young, fresh faced, attractive and to be old, is to not be a welcome part of this society. Individuals should value the aging process in older adults because it is an unavoidable part of life that has it own special values and can offer so many things to the younger generations no matter what stage of life one might be in.
The wisdom and information of the older adult offers a calming confidence to society that beauty does come in many forms and can be expressed in many ways and that it does not have to have a sexy component to it to be beautiful and desirable. The growing numbers of baby boomers in this society is bringing a new focus on how exciting and active the older citizen can be and that the contributions to government, science and entertainment and every facet of life is enriched by those who have lived long lives and are still actively giving back to society in countless ways new and creative views of how beautiful it can be to grow older and be appreciated for who you are and not how old you are.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2007) 4th edition Houghton, Mifflin