Academic Master


Media Portrayal Paper


This essay is about how media portrays elder in the TV commercials and how it depicts their aging process. We will discuss the stereotypes that have been associated with the older adults broadcasted in commercial media. Most of the time we notice that people with advanced ages are portrayed in commercials as child-like or crazy, alone or having a dull routine, and elders are having health problems, etc. They are featured in many ads of life insurance and medicine as well. All these commercials show some stereotypes associated with the aged people which will be discussed in detail in this essay.

Stereotyping is defined as the set of fixed image or characteristics which people associate with a group of people or things. Media is the platform through which stereotypes can be developed and advertised at a greater rate. Old people are being used in advertisement often, but these advertisements portray the elder people on the basis of either positive or negative stereotypes. According to the research portraying older people from any form of media including internet, TV, and newspaper, etc. can impact the way old people perceive themselves as well as how other people perceive them (Lin, Harwood, & Hummert, 2007). Media planner of the advertisement and the advertisers should take into account the matter of negative and positive portrayal of old people in the commercials of the product and services they are offering to the customers. They should check the portrayal of negative impacts on people and the old people as well to eliminate stereotyping. In this essay, I have chosen commercial advertisement as a form of media as there are many commercial advertisements that have featured old people in the campaigns. Research shows that the audience of television has a large portion of old people. Which means that they are mostly exposed to the advertisements including the commercials that include stereotypes of old people weather negative or positive.


Many commercials of Coca-cola have been featured on people of advanced ages, and these commercials depict most of the elders as they are lonely, they have a boring life, and they are in the hospital for a check-up. After having coca-cola, they feel refreshed and adventurous. They start enjoying their lives and do not go to have check-ups. Bladder control medicine Myrbetriq commercial shows that people of advanced age face issues of bladder control and they have to go pee even if they are busy in some gathering or playing a game. British Airways commercial depicted that an old lady is traveling alone and she needs help to fasten her seatbelt or wearing socks which shows the dependence of old people on others as they cannot do their tasks. She is lonely and sad, but she is a kind lady. Air hostess helped the old woman feel good, and she showed kindness, love, and affection in return. Another ad. What I chose for the report is of IKEA in which there are three old people living their routine life by sitting on the ground without talking to each other and passing time. One day an old man could not get his place on the bench, so he got a chair from IKEA to sit the next day, and by buying that chair, he was able to enjoy every moment of life by sitting on the chair, enjoying different places and participating in many adventurous activities. Other commercials include old people featuring in the advertisements of insurance policies which show that there is a risk of their life and they should have an insurance policy for their better future. Old women are featured in advertisements of beauty product to show wrinkled and freckled skins.

Stereotyping is referred as labeling people by unrealistic or incomplete information. Many people believe that old people are all the same having same ideas, lifestyle, and beliefs, etc. This is a myth as it is not true, many older adults in their ages of the 50s to 70s believe that they felt the freedom of expression and action which is opposite to what stereotyped for the elder people (Anon, 2012). Stereotypes for old people like they are dependent on younger people, they cannot understand you easily, they have hearing problems, and they are frail, etc. are associated with old people in these ads. This is also attributed to these commercials that old people are kind, wise, and sweet. They show hospitality in these commercial. These commercials show that old people have a boring life and the same routine over many days to spend their time. They have been shown sitting alone, not having any friends or fun in their life. They are weak and unattractive; they are grumpy and frail. They have health problems, and they have to go for regular check-ups. The message being sent by these TV commercials is that old people are weak, dependent, lonely, incapable of understanding you quickly, and boring but by using the products, they can have a happy, adventurous, and better life. They are not just dependent on you. They can have fun and healthy life. They also have a right to change their boring routine life, and they are kind, wise and friendly.

Older adults are linked with the stereotypes like they are dull, weak, unhappy, sad, frail and grumpy. They do not have a social life or any excitement in the life. They can not look after themselves. They are dependent and have many medical problems. They are unfriendly and lonely. Their social life is not vast, and they live on a repetitive daily routine. By these commercials, the stereotypes associated with the old people are being reinforced through the media. They have been shown in the commercials as what they were expected to be by the public, i.e., portraying the typical stereotypes but by using the products, they start to behave differently and opposite to these stereotypes. In these ads., they have shown lively, energetic and adventurous old people only when they use these products but before that, they were stereotyped typically. This strategy can not have effective influence over the audience. People who see the advertisement will judge the old people on these stereotypes.

In these commercial I have used in examples, the older adults are underrepresented or misrepresented. Previously many commercials and advertisements portrayed the old people negatively by stereotypes and the gender-based differences. But now media has changed its perspective by showing positive stereotypes of old people, and they want to work on the ways to refute the stereotypes by showing opposite lifestyle of elders in the ads. But to show them weak, lonely, sad, unfriendly, boring at the start of the advertisement promoting a negative impact on the elder person as well the other people about aged people and aging process.

The portrayal of elder people in media is getting a little changed over time from negative to the positive side. They are portrayed in media as breaking the stereotyping linked with the aged people. At first, they are shown as frail, boring, grumpy individual, but after they use the product or service, they behaved opposite to their stereotyped expectations. For example, the advertisement of coca cola shows that old people started feeling energetic like children. They feel active and adventurous which is a try to evolve the stereotyped perception of old people from negative to the positive side. Similarly, advertisement of IKEA tried to portray in the same manner. Over time the study has shown that the negative portrayal of stereotyping is reduced to a positive representation of old age people in the media ( (DW, TS, & J, 2004)

As the companies are trying to evolve the negative portrayal of old people stereotypes into positive portrayal. By watching the commercials featuring adults and their opposite behavior, attitudes of the people about older adults has been evolved. From these advertisements they get to know that all the old people are not just boring persons, depending upon others or lazy, they now believe that there are some elder person who wants to have fun in their life and they are kind, wise and sweet. The present media portrayal of elderly people has a positive impact on people in this era because people are more open-minded than before and they avoid stereotyping. They get influenced by watching the positive portrayal of old people over media and accept the change. For example in the commercial advertisement of British Airways, they have portrayed an old lady with some positive stereotypes like she was kind and loving. She showed hospitality to the air hostess and invited her in her home, she made her a meal, and she gave her a lovely company in her home and with family. She presented her with the gift at the end. All these characters can build a positive image and stereotypes of the old people who can help replacee the negative stereotypes from the mind of the audience. Research shows that there is a significant impact of positive portrayal of an aging process. People tend to have a positive perception of personal aging by watching the positive representation of old age people (Fung et al., 2016).

It is a realistic but difficult task for the advertisers to change the representation of old age people in the commercials. The approach is good but difficult to implement and achieve. This approach can help the old people feel better about them and aging process. Also, the young people will show a positive response to the aging process. Advertisers may face many challenges to eradicating the aging biases from the TV commercials. But a few steps can be taken to reduce adverse portrayal of old age people and show more of its positive sides. They can improve how the old age people are portrayed in the advertisements by replacing negative stereotypes into positive ones. For example, show them lively and fun-loving rather than showing them dull and bored. Use those old age people in the advertisement of beauty creams which does not fit the stereotypes of having wrinkles on the face or unattractive personality, like an old age athlete or a well-groomed TV anchor, etc. Show that people can maintain themselves by using these products in a beautiful way like the person used in the advertisement. But the challenge for the marketers is that repeated exposure to the negative portrayal of old age people would not let them change the perspective of the people (Milner, Norman, & Milner, 2011)


Stereotyping can be positive or negative, but it can have both positive as well as negative impact on the stereotyped group. The portrayal of aged people in the media especially in television commercials is mostly negative and have a negative effect on the old age people as well the young people about the aging process. These advertisements show negative stereotypes about the old people mostly. But now commercials of products and services featuring old age people are getting evolved to change the perception of the people and remove the stereotypes associated with the old people and aging, but it needs more strategies and planning to implement and bring out the improvement of negative stereotypes into positive typecasts. Portraying old age people positively not necessarily impact on advanced aged people positively but most of the time the positive portrayal helps people to have a positive stereotyping for aging and aged people. Media planner and advertiser face many problems and challenges to remove the stereotyping effect from the advertisements, but it is their responsibility not to portray the elder people in a negative stereotype that may have a negative impact on them.

They can get hurt, and they can get emotionally attacked by such advertisements which show them as a group of people who are lazy, who could not understand things easily, who are sad and lonely, who are unfriendly, who have a boring life, and who have health problems. Marketers and advertisers should think about some effective strategies to eliminate the negative stereotyping from the television advertisements, and they should improve the image of old people being portrayed in the ads. They should not portray them as an unhappy, frail, lonely and boring person. Not everyone is same. Most of the advertisement shows them unhappy, unhealthy, boring, lonely, and dependent on others, etc. It creates repetition of the under-representation and misrepresentation of the old people which strengthens the stereotyping concept. When they show them doing exciting things after using the products of their company, people think of it as descriptive marketing techniques and do not consider it as an effort to change the thinking and mentality we have made about the old people.


Hillier, S. M., & Georgia, B. (2015). Aging, the Individual, and Society. Edition 10, pages 496

Helene H. Fung, Tianyuan Li, Xin Zhang, Iny M. I. Sit, Sheung-Tak Cheng, Derek M. Isaacowitz; Positive Portrayals of Old Age Do Not Always Have Positive Consequences, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 70, Issue 6, 1 November

Anon. (2012). Ageing: Myth and reality. Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, 20-60.

DW, M., TS, L., & J, M. (2004). Stereotypes of the elderly in U.S. television commercials from the 1950s to the 1990s. Sage journal, 315-340.

Milner, C., Norman, K. V., & Milner, J. (2011). The Media’s Portrayal of Ageing. Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise?, 24-28.

Lin M. C. Harwood J. , & Hummert M. L . (2008). Young adults’ intergenerational communication schemas in Taiwan and USA. Journal of Language and Social Psychology , 27, 28–50.



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