News

Guidance for journalists on writing about older age now available on IPSO website

20.1.22

Guidance for reporting on ageing and older age, produced by the Centre for Ageing Better and the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, has been included in the Independent Press Standards Organisation’s (IPSO) external resources for journalists. The guidance is designed to ensure that older people and their experiences are more accurately reflected and represented in the media.

The guidance urges journalists and editors to move away from stereotypes and embrace more realistic depictions of later life, to use terminology that older people prefer – such as ‘older’ rather than ‘elderly’ – and to avoid ‘compassionate ageism,’ where older people are patronised and framed as vulnerable or needy.

Journalists and editors are also advised not to stoke conflict between generations or present old age as a societal burden. Alternatively, the guidance suggests those working in the media highlight the diversity that exists within generations, and to understand the differences between inequalities in wealth and intergenerational conflict.

Ageing Better and the Older People's Commissioner for Wales welcome the regulator’s willingness to share this guidance. We hope that it will be a first step towards updating the Editors’ Code to include age as a protected characteristic. Currently age is one of the few characteristics not included in the Code. Adding age would enable a proper process for ensuring quality and appropriateness of references to age and stories relating to people in later life, the organisations say.

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

“The media has a crucial role to play in tackling ageism by making sure that stories about older people reflect the diversity of experiences and do not reinforce negative assumptions and stereotypes about growing older.

“So we're really pleased that IPSO has included our new guidance as part of its useful resources, providing journalists with straightforward, practical information and advice about reporting on ageing and older people.

“This is an important step towards our longer-term aim of getting the Editors’ Code updated to include ‘Age’ as a protected characteristic, and we look forward to continuing to work with IPSO and journalists to make this happen, as part of our wider work to tackle ageism and age discrimination.”

Carole Easton, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:

“The inclusion of this guidance is a vital step forwards in ensuring that older people’s experiences are more accurately reflected in the media.

“Clause 12 in the Editors’ Code sets out expectations with regards to avoiding discrimination. However, the exclusion of age within the Code is a big omission. Age is one of the Protected Characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and should be afforded the same protections as any other type of characteristic – including in media reporting.”

Jane Debois, Head of Standards and Regulation at IPSO, said:

“We are pleased to publish this guidance from Centre for Ageing Better and the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales on our website, as part of the selection of external resources from other organisations we make available to journalists interested in the reporting of specific topics.”

“These guidelines are separate to the Editors' Code but may be of interest to journalists when reporting on sensitive and challenging issues.”