Ageism

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Ageism

Abstract

This informal experiment intends to describe and document negative connotations reflected in popular culture through multimedia and measuring how long it takes for five negative remarks or innuendos to be observed within a given time frame. The dependent variable is the number of negative connotations, while the independent variable is the media through which the negative comments on aging are presented. Hypothesis #1 (H1) is predicated on the time slot of television programming. Television targeting a specific demographic would effect the amount of time for the negative comments to be observed. The time slot of programming would result in a difference in observable negative connotations toward aging, with Sunday evening programming having much more in comparison to Saturday morning programs. The null hypothesis (H0) is no observable difference. Since the study is informal, only the two variables will be considered, however the context in which the comments were encountered will be discussed in relation to time and media, in this case, over the air digital television programming.

Introduction

Robert N. Butler (1969) first coined the term age-ism, described as the “ultimate prejudice” (Angus & Reeve, 2006). Ageism constitutes negative attitudes and behaviors directed at a specific age group. Butler (1969) described it as an “uneasiness” or “distaste” for growing old. The concept of “growing old” has been associated with decline and disability. People tend to view the aging population negatively.

Ageism is a product of society and stems from deep rooted beliefs influenced by social, political and economic factors. Through multimedia and advertisement an image of perfection is introduced to members of a capitalistic society whereby standards are established for what is considered normal and beautiful. Youth is worshiped in Western culture and its prevalence associated with power and acceptance (Saucier, 2004). The media, magazines, and advertisements are partially responsible for this obsession as they emphasize youthful looking skin, healthy hair, and muscular or toned bodies. Visible signs of aging like wrinkles, gray hair, and weight gain do not support these values. As a result, the aging population is viewed as less adequate and aging women feel especially compelled to remain young and beautiful. Saucier (2004) attributes this finding to the under representation of older women on television.

In addition to youth and beauty, other cultural values may bolster ageism and further alienate older people from society. Capitalism has led to values emphasizing workforce participation, financial and economic contributions to society, income capacity, job status, economic productivity, and work related performance (Angus & Reeve, 2006). Mandatory retirement policies has forced older people out of the workforce and without work, they are generating less income. They are more likely to be viewed as lazy and unproductive. The aging process is accompanied by physical and psychological changes which may result in alteration of role expectations and ability (Saucier, 2004). Problems in adjustment are often aggravated among minority elderly populations due to their lower socioeconomic status and the effects of poverty and discrimination (Angus & Reeve, 2006). Through stigmatization and stereotyping a barrier is constructed between older people and the rest of society resulting in the reinforcement of ageism.

Methods

A random selection of television shows were observed based on the time slot and therefore the demographic being targeted by the television networks. Saturday morning and Sunday evening programming were compared. Since Saturday morning television networks typically target a young audience, ages 18 and younger, the programs' content and advertisements are definitely intended for a very young audience. On the other hand, television programming and advertisement on a Sunday evening is...
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