Stereotypes and Representations of Aging in the Media

By Mason, Susan E.; Darnell, Emily A. et al. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, June 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Stereotypes and Representations of Aging in the Media

Mason, Susan E., Darnell, Emily A., Prifti, Krisiola, Journal of Instructional Psychology

How are older adults presented in print and in the electronic media? Are they underrepresented? Are they accurately portrayed? Based on our examination of several forms of media over a four-month period, we discuss the role of the media in shaping our views on aging. Quantitative and qualitative analyses reveal that media representations often contribute to misunderstandings and stereotypes. We hypothesize that, as America ages, media representations of aging and the aged will be more accurate, and will lead to a better understanding of the varied interests, abilities and needs of older adults.


It is said that the media both reflect and shape our culture. It follows that the representation of older adults and aging in the media may serve two purposes--it may reveal common stereotypes that exist in our society, and it may actually teach or reinforce existing stereotypes.

Children and young adults who often have limited contact with older adults, other than their grandparents, may develop beliefs about aging based on what they see in the media. If older adults are under-represented (Maas & Hasbrook, 2001; Robinson & Skill, 1995; Robinson & Anderson, 2006), or the majority of the representations are negative (Bishop & Krause, 1984; Dail, 1988), then negative stereotypes are likely to develop. Our study was an exploratory study designed to assess potential bias in the media. We did a quantitative and qualitative comparison of some of the media sources to which young adults are exposed.


During the spring semester of 2008, the students enrolled in an introductory gerontology course had the option of completing a media scrapbook to satisfy one of their course requirements. The other options that the students could consider were to volunteer to work with older adults, keeping a journal and reflecting on that experience; or to learn about career opportunities in their major field, considering the benefit of a background in gerontology.

The media scrapbook was, by far, the most popular choice, with 19 of the 27 students electing to complete a scrapbook. The second most popular choice was to research career options; there were seven students who chose that option. Only one student volunteered to work with older adults and reflect on the experience.

Over a four-month period, the 19 students who selected the scrapbook option reviewed various forms of electronic and print media, identifying items that dealt with aging and older adults. They collected what items they could, such as articles, print advertisements and cartoons, and wrote descriptions of the items that could not be placed in a scrapbook, such as movies, billboards and radio reports. Items organized in the scrapbooks formed the basis for quantitative and qualitative analyses of the representation of aging and the aged in the media.


We categorized the scrapbook items by whether they presented aging and older adults in a positive, neutral, or negative way. We also separated the items by media type. Articles were the most common items (328), followed by cartoons (60), and then advertisements (158). Other types of media, such as songs, poems, movies, and blogs, were less common and were grouped together as "other" (96).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Stereotypes and Representations of Aging in the Media


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?