The Ageist Attitudes & Beliefs about the Elderly Reflected in Mass Media, Television & Films
The aging of the population is considered the phenomenon of the modern world. In fact, the today’s society is significantly affected by the aging process, which causes not only demographic but also economic and social changes. In fact, the increase in the proportion of the elderly people among the population allows the state and public institutions employ their social and professional experience. However, it should be mentioned that the modern society is characterized by a variety of stereotypes about this subgroup, which are reflected in the mass media, television, and films. In fact, it can be seen that ageism creates a specific type of discrimination towards the elderly people. The stereotypic attitudes and beliefs towards the person’s age are caused by many factors, including the cultural and historical peculiarities of the respective society.
The most common and popular stereotypic attitudes towards the elderly people include the beliefs that they are weak and destitute. Consequently, it means that they cannot work and need constant care and guardianship. In addition, they are considered to be abandoned, lonely, and conservative, often suffer from the brain damage, and gradually lose the memory, as well as the mental, social, and sexual functioning. Based on the literature review, the following paper discusses and defines the most popular ageist attitudes and beliefs about the elderly reflected in mass media, television, and films.
Relevant Literature Review
There is no doubt that the media plays a huge role in the society. As early as in the 19th century, it was named the fourth power. The invention of the radio and television, as well as the Internet, increased the role of the media in society, making it limitless. Nowadays, it owns the minds of the population, fills in the leisure time, as well as manipulates the consciousness by shaping specific attitudes and beliefs. In fact, it should be mentioned that the media has an extremely large impact on the society, in particular, the psychological and moral character of each individual. It significantly influences the cultural attitudes and values of the modern people.
Unfortunately, among the variety of positive effects of the media, some negative outcomes can be defined. In this context, Ageism is one of the negative effects mentioned above. It implies any negative attitudes and beliefs about the elderly, as well as any discrimination based on the people’s age. In fact, the manifestations of ageism can be very diverse. In many ways, the negative attitude towards the elderly results from the conviction and prejudice that these people are useless to the society. This idea is influenced by the fact that such individuals are more difficult to communicate with as compared to the young. Moreover, a number of physiological reasons prevent them from understanding and remembering the information. The facts mentioned above create the ground for the belief that the elderly people are not important to the society at all. This attitude can be considered the sight of discrimination of the elderly people in the modern society. Moreover, usually, they are discriminated even in their families as the younger relatives may ignore their opinions and even needs.
However, it should be mentioned that the aging is an important process in the life of every person. It entails a change in the social status and the associated image of the person, as well as the level and quality of his or her life. In fact, the factors that are influencing an elderly person in this period can be divided into two main groups; the objective and subjective ones. The objective factors imply the overall socio-economic development of the state, the social needs and expectations of the person and society, and living conditions, among many other issues. On the other hand, the subjective factors imply the family structure, marriage, the role of the elderly person in the family, and the level of education. While changing their role in the society, the elderly should find the new ways of self-affirmation and implementation of their activities. This stage significantly influences not only the physical and mental health but also the life expectancy of an individual.
The points mentioned above suppose that the process of aging requires the social adaptation of an elderly person towards his or her new position in the society. In fact, the social environment may be considered a factor that slows down or, conversely, speeds up the aging process. Unfortunately, the modern society seeks to dissociate itself from the elderly by transferring the responsibility for their lives and rejecting them. Consequently, the elderly people face a number of challenges and difficulties. As a rule, they experience a heavy pressure of the negative emotions, neglectful attitudes, and even discrimination (the so-called phenomenon of ageism).
The researches of Ambrosius and Foster prove that the elderly people are under the pressure of the social stereotypic requirements and expectations that consider their abilities, interests, and needs. Unfortunately, most of these attitudes are negative. The main causes of the negative stereotyping towards the elder people imply the reduction of contacts between the generations in the family, as well as a negative public opinion created by the media. The most popular ageist attitudes and beliefs about the elderly reflected in mass media, television, and films imply that they are unhealthy and depressed; therefore, they become the burden to the rest of society. It is believed that these people are abandoned and lonely, conservative, often suffer from the brain damage, and gradually lose the memory, as well as the mental, social, and sexual functioning.
The Parks and Recreation Show can be considered as a clear example of ageism in the media. In the Rock Show, the first season episode, the main character, Leslie Knope, goes on a blind date with an elder man. Although, the girl thinks that the dinner is a business meeting, the 62-year-old George supposes that it is a date. The humor used in the episode expresses the ageist attitudes and beliefs towards the elderly as the 62-year-old man is represented as an unpleasant person with the signs of the mental disease.
The examples of the ageist attitudes and beliefs on TV and in films can be seen through the absence or limited presence of the elderly actresses and actors in the modern movies and advertisements. Unfortunately, the modern society breeds the youth-oriented culture with a variety of negative stereotypes about the aged people. The stereotypes towards the elderly imply the sets of simplistic generalizations about people who are over 60 years old. Such stereotypes lead to the discriminatory and disrespected attitudes towards them from the rest of society. For example, Vicky Gutierrez, the former Telemundo reporter, is suing the NBC Universal Company, as well as the Spanish-Language Channel, for the age discrimination. According to Vicky Gutierrez, she was terminated from her position because of her age.
The discriminatory behavior of ageists considers a number of popular stereotypes and prejudices towards the elderly people. The main danger of these attitudes is that usually, they are not based on the real facts. Furthermore, at certain moments, numerous social prejudices and stereotypes can become very dangerous.
Today, ageism is a phenomenon that exists in different social manifestations and involves discrimination based on the person’s age. In other words, it is any negative attitude towards the representatives of the older generation, which impacts the quality of life of the elderly people, as well as causes the limited opportunities for their participation in the political, social, economic, and cultural life of the respective society.
The change in the society’s attitudes towards the elderly people requires the revival of the specific traditions of honoring the wisdom of the elder generation. The activities aimed at overcoming the impact of ageism and consequent increase in the life expectancy and improvement of their quality of life are supposed to be among the prime tasks of the modern social, educational, and socio-cultural policies of the state. In fact, the main task of the government is the formation of a social system that will enable the elder generations to participate in the life of the society fully and actively without any limitations and prejudices.
The opportunities for the social and cultural engagement of the elderly people are among the main ways of improving their quality of life, as well as overcoming the negative trends in relation to the old age. There is no doubt that an active lifestyle and participation in the social and cultural activities of the whole society creates the individuality of each person. However, not all retired people can independently organize their lives and direct it into the socially useful and significant mainstream. It means that the elderly people are in need of some assistance in order to remain the equitable participants of the society.