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Media Guide: Making Ageism Old News

Responses to Covid-19 have exposed serious questions about the way we think and talk about older people and highlight the impact those attitudes can have. The consequences of ageism have never been more apparent than amid a global pandemic.

Ageist attitudes are rife in the workplace, in health and social care and in the media. Our recent Big Survey provided a voice for older people across Scotland and revealed that just 7% agreed that older people are represented positively in the media.

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According to research by the Centre for Better Ageing, 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, victims, or a burden on society. The way that older people are portrayed in the media, adverts and in Parliament can have a direct impact on people’s attitudes to ageing, the way older people are viewed by society, and the way that older people view themselves.

This guide aims to help stakeholders, including politicians and the media improve how they talk about older people by avoiding ageist and negative stereotypes in the messages and images they use.


of over 50s felt that older people are represented positively in the media

Age Scotland's Big Survey 2021

In Scotland, by 2035 there will be more than 1.7 million people aged 60 and over. Our ageing population will, of course, present many challenges but also opportunities. We have been campaigning over the years to shift the negative narrative that exists around ageing and seek to tackle age discrimination in all its forms. Ageism fundamentally undermines older, and younger, people’s participation in society and can lead to greater isolation and loneliness. We must work together to highlight the important contributions that older people make and ensure ageist stereotypes are removed from our public discourse altogether, now and in the future.

I am pleased that Age Scotland chose to seek the NUJ’s endorsement of its guidance, and equally pleased that we can endorse it wholeheartedly.

John Toner | National Union of Journalists organiser, Scotland

Of course, we don’t always get it right all of the time and seek to challenge ourselves when this is the case.

I hope you will support our work in tackling ageism and find this guide useful and informative when reporting on issues facing older people.

Age-positive images

Get access to the Centre for Ageing Better's free library of age-positive images

Contact Age Scotland's media team:

Age Scotland provides a seven day a week response service to media enquiries through a dedicated telephone line and email.

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