The perceptions of older persons in residential care facilities regarding how they are portrayed in the print media
Despite the growing numbers and valuable contributions of older individuals to society, they continue to face negative attitudes towards them. Such attitudes are largely influenced by portrayal of older persons in the media. Understanding how the media portrays older people to the public can provide significant insights into the nature of the images from which older people may make comparisons and which inform the perceptions, opinions, and attitudes of other people. There is little knowledge of perceptions of media portrayal in old age, and this study aimed to obtain insight from the point of view of older people regarding how they are portrayed in the printed media. Qualitative research has been applied to gain insight in the older persons’ perceptions. The case study method was chosen since it allowed the researcher to gain an in–depth understanding of older person’s perceptions regarding how they are portrayed in the media. The participants in this study consisted of nine male and 12 female individuals residing in a residential care facility. Persons between the ages of 60 and 85 were purposively chosen since they can contribute to meaningful insight regarding how they are portrayed in the print media. Data was collected by means of conducting focus group discussions and individual interviews. The use of these methods enabled dynamic interactions resulting in the production of rich, detailed information. Data was analyzed using thematic content analysis and key–word–in–context analysis. Guidelines to ensure the integrity of the findings have been applied. The findings indicated that older persons perceive their portrayal in the media to be minimal in terms of the exposure that they receive. Older persons feel that on the seldom occasion when they are in the media, they are presented as an isolated population separated from younger persons. The portrayal of older persons in the media is also perceived as stereotypical in the sense that older persons are presented as sick, inactive, weak and fragile. The implications of such portrayal according to older persons are that they influence intergenerational relationships and they also confirm stereotypical assumptions about older persons. Older persons feel that they rather want to be portrayed in terms of the valuable contributions that they are making to all spheres of life, despite old age. The media should thus promote positive ageing, which could contribute to the stimulation and motivation of older persons. Findings of this study also indicate that while older persons enjoy reading magazines and newspapers they are often limited to do so due to financial restrictions and physical limitations such as poor eyesight. The findings of this research of older persons perceptions regarding their portrayal in the media has implications for intergenerational relationships as well as to advertisers and marketers who are looking to appeal to the older population.
- ETD@PUK 
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