Commissioner finds that over two-thirds of news stories portray older people in a negative light

10.6.21

Negative portrayals of older people in the news play a role in reinforcing stereotypes and assumptions about older people and growing older that lead to ageism and age discrimination.

That’s a key finding of a report published today by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales – Portrayal of Older People in News Media – which examines the ways that the language, content and tone of news articles may influence attitudes towards older people.

The report shows that over two-thirds of the news stories analysed portrayed older people in a negative way, painting a picture of older people as being in ill-health, being victims, or being a burden on society.

The report also examines the change that would help to ensure that media reports about older people better reflect the diversity of their experiences and challenge entrenched views about growing older, crucial to shift negative attitudes that lead to ageism and age discrimination, which impacts upon older people’s mental and physical health, recovery from illness, memory function, social inclusion and even life expectancy.

The research on which the report is based analysed over 200 print and online articles from a range of publications, including several Welsh publications.

Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said:

“It is concerning that many news stories about older people have a negative focus, and portray older people as being in ill-health or as a burden on society, as highlighted within my report.

“Presenting older people in this way reinforces stereotypes and negative attitudes towards older people, which can lead to ageism and age discrimination, something that is still common throughout society.

“Ageism and age discrimination can have a significant impact on older people’s health and well-being, so action to tackle these issues must be a priority. 

“Given its power to influence attitudes and opinion, the media has a key role to play in this, and my report sets out the change that could be delivered to help to ensure that the diversity of older people and their experiences are better reflected in the stories we see and read in the news every day.”

Download Portrayal of Older People in News Media