Independence, individualism, and autonomy make our country unique, and have attracted primarily young people to immigrate into the United States historically. The elderly tend to stay in the old country where a more traditional lifestyle approach is valued. Also, technology continues to change at an extreme pace, and it is difficult for the elderly to keep up with it. In addition, medicine has made many advances that stretch the human life span, so most cases of death occur with old age.
Despite the belief these factors that contribute to the devaluation of our nations elders, the media is extremely influential and that can not be ignored. The elderly is not only underrepresented in proportion to our countries population in television, they are also poorly represented. Too often, the media emphasizes on youth and beauty and the elderly is portrayed to be stubborn and absent minded. This kind of viewpoint leaves the youth viewing elderly as incompetent.
Their is a risk that the mindset our young American population is developing will continue taint the image of our older Americans, leaving them to become further devalued. The background research includes portrayals of the elderly seen in various television commercials, children and adolescent literature, magazine advertisements, newspapers, cartoons, and greeting cards. Prime time television commercials were analyzed using a content analysis in order to determine the population of the elderly seen during prime TV hours, as well as the role the elderly take on in the commercials seen. 78 commercials are sampled on the four major networks: FOX, CBS, NBC and ABC.
The categories of the analysis included total number of characters in commercial, number of characters that are elderly, age group of each character, culture group of each character, role emphasis of elderly characters in commercial, setting/locale of commercial, and type of product being advertised. The results on the study show that less then 10% of characters are by definition elderly, with the elderly population sampled consisting primarily females.
In our society however, males make up 133:100 females. Only . 12% of sampled elderly people seen are Spanish or African American, despite the population of African Americans in our country aged 65 or older is nearly 1% and hispanics making up 9% of the elderly population. .24% of sampled elderly people make up the non-Anglo minorities, despite their 3. 71% of the elder population. These results show extreme inaccuracy in comparison to our population.
As far as stereotyping the elderly as predicted, elderly people were not accounted for in their stereotypical products (arthritis creams, denture products etc) or absent minded and week. In conclusion, the thesis turned out to be accurate about the misrepresentation of the elderly population in contrast to their population in our country. They were completely under represented, and further, not proportionate per race representation based on the elder population. However, the negative media portrayal was not the stubborn absent minded one that was foreseen.
Personally, I feel the media needs to remember that their target audience is our country, and I believe by balancing races proportionally based on our actual elder population, they will be able to better relate to the viewer. Companies that are trying to advertise to an older consumer, should probably consider representing the consumer in their commercials. The obsession our nation has with youth and beauty may not be the most effective in captivating the right buyer.