Concerns about the plight of elderly citizens rarely get media attention. News, features and comments about various situations in nursing homes or homes for the aged rarely see print publications or get exposure on radio and television programs. This is not, in fact, the result of media indifference to the issues and concerns of the elderly but rather the failure of administrators and managers of elderly homes or facilities to establish good and positive working relations with media in their respective localities. Such media relations entail comprehensive and effective public relations program and implementation specifically
positive media coverage in order to encourage donors to support the charity. As a result of the management failure, the elderly population is generally represented in both broadcast and print media in detrimental and inconvenient ways. Unfortunately, the success and effectiveness of an elderly-based charitable institution depend on the manners by which older people are characterized by media. Hence, an institution which depicts a negative media image is likely for its people to have difficult time in running such facility, mainly because of lack of donors, thereby subjecting elderly people to prejudice.
In today’s competitive society, however, some charitable organizations which cater services and provide the needs of the elderly have already undertaken daring and hard-hitting media campaigns which use shock strategies to grab attention, surprise and ultimately lure targeted donors especially the generous ones. In some instances, such shock tactic apparently works to the advantage of the institution and its elderly wards even disputing that said scheme is the only way to convey messages to the public and address the issue of compassion fatigue. However, considerable proofs have otherwise determined that media and
the public are not truly interested with the utilization of amazing and scandalous media techniques. Thus, the image of elderly in the media as well as the ways which are inclined to be advantageous or not are essential factors for an institution and its press or media liaison officers to take into consideration in order to promote and attain positive media coverage thus paving the way for the success and maintenance of the facility and most importantly, the provision of required services and care for the elderly. Media Representation of Elderly, an Overview
In the course of history, there has been a significant modification in the concept and depiction of aging. The elderly of the previous years were regarded with extreme mobility and respect. As the years passed, those belonging to the older population were considered unemployed and unessential. The negative depiction of the elderly was intensified as they have become associated with poor standard of living, loneliness and poor health. Worst, manifestations of bias and unfairness have never ceased to exist in the lives of the elderly until now (Palmore 1999). Media’s demeaning labelling of the elderly definitely posed an alarming concern.
This is because of the fact that their stereotyping in the television, radio and all print materials ultimately determined the public’s outlook of elderly. Based from considerable number of a relevant research, the negative portrayal of elderly by the media was confirmed. In particular, the ways by which media negatively represent the elderly are according to their function, gender, physical capacity and other components which have apparently pointed to a specific reality that the elderly were normally illustrated in a pessimistic perspective (Vasil & Wass 1993).
The manners by which media detrimentally represent the elderly were corroborated by Delloff who noted that broadcast and print media offer distorted images of old people. The author then confirmed that the harmful media representations of the elderly are in accordance with their respective physical, mental, emotional and social attributes (Delloff 1987 cited in Brock & Brock n. d. ). Citing Dail, Tupper also stated that the conventional representation of elderly in the mass media indicated an unpleasant condition. In fact, the negative stereotyping of the elderly weighed more as compared with the other groups or sectors in the society.
Indeed, such situation is attributed to different elements such as “cognition, physical ability, health, sociability, personality and work capability” of the elderly (Tupper 1995: 1). Physical-related Representation The related problems correlated with aging are generally attributed to the premise that as one gets older, the body condition deteriorates resulting to physical restrictions and inabilities. In fact, the physical condition of the elderly becomes a significant indicator of how an older person will be able to carry out all the other aspects of life such as the mental, social and even professional or livelihood capacity.
Such physical restriction was how media has represented the elderly as regard their physical condition. That is, the elderly are prevented from their previous physical activities because of old age and therefore, are also discontinued with their other activities. Due to the restriction, media dramatize their plight by indicating that they just rely on their insurance and other forms of remittance because they were practically portrayed as senile, sluggish, weak or unhealthy and immature (Radio Praha 2005).
For instance, a television representation of the elderly signifies that they are too frail thus require the care and supervision by the younger generation (University of Kentucky n. d. ). Such physical-related restriction was not limited to strength and power but was best exemplified with how media demean the physical looks of the elderly. In particular, media advertisements concerning fashion and beauty products which are seen in primetime television commercials created a significant discrimination against older people who are regarded as ineligible for promoting a beauty-related product or service due to their maturing look.
Since broadcast media, specifically television, is considered the best medium to endorse products, the elderly were generally marked as unfit for such kind of commercials (Tupper 1995). Social-related Representation Media’s representation of the elderly in the social perspective is manifested in accordance with several myths such as an old person no longer has social life hence is no longer interested in fresh undertakings and even is lessened with social desire to be with and intimate with someone (University of Kentucky n.
d. ). While previous social attachments are eventually interrupted as one gets older, media, however, do not totally regard such social disruption as negative. This is because of the severe relevance among elderly to continue a stable link with their families and the society they belong to. Hence, the need to belong becomes the main concern of the elderly and the media is somewhat effective in representing the lessened but continued longing of the elderly to be with their family members and friends in the community.
Although the media portrays that elderly somehow lost a part of their social functions and desires, it is not totally removed since there is still left with them that long for attachment to their respective social environments which are maintained by their unrelenting social affiliations. Hence, communication forms which are comprised by both broadcast and print media, represent and give a social framework that elderly may have freed themselves from social intimacies but definitely not with their family and community connections (Sawhney 2000).
Psychological/Mental-related Representation Concern about psychological or mental instability is how the media generally portrays the condition of the elderly. This fallacy is attributed to situation wherein an old person requires the psychological assistance of a professional in order to come up with sound decision (University of Kentucky n. d. ). The elderly condition of “second childhood” has also predominantly manifested in a number of broadcast programs and print articles wherein such kind of mental concern is presumed to be experienced by the elderly.
In many instances, catalogues coming from several movies, broadcast and print commercials specifically illustrate how the elderly were eventually reduced into the child-like condition and the said stereotyping made them incapacitated or moving back to second childhood. Another example of the exploitation of the media about the mental disorders of the elderly was proven with continued representation of their experience of Alzheimer’s disease and “sundown syndrome” in various television shows as well as print and web articles (Counts & Counts 2001: 41). Emotional-related Representation
The issue of age labelling was noted with concern by Andersen and Taylor who provided as an example how media manipulated the public’s perspective and eventually distorted the emotional condition of the elderly. They explained that media representations show that the elderly were regarded as emotionally sad or that as one gets older, evil feelings are developed towards people and the society. There are also situations wherein media depicts the elderly as childish which manifests an immature emotional state. Due to this supposed demeaning emotional condition, media also shows how the public, in turn, negatively responds.
This is because the emotional stereotyping persuades how the younger ones conduct themselves in the company of the elderly. Media particularly illustrates this with how people talk to and behave in front of the elderly (Andersen & Taylor 2006: 366). Shock Tactics: Advantageous or Not? Due to negative media representations, charitable institutions were enormously affected and the harmful implications are passed on to their management and caring of their wards. Hence, said facilities have resorted to the use of promotional or advertising shock tactics to both make people generously donate more and survive in the industry.
One example of the employment of shock tactics by an institution caring for the elderly was the advertising poster of the Help the Aged facility which showed a morgue picture of eight pairs of feet supposedly belonging to deceased elderly. This material confirmed the existence of such promotional gimmick which, according to the Help the Aged, is definitely essential. Despite criticisms from upset sectors including the elderly themselves, the said institution defended the ad poster saying that such technique is aimed at educating the public specifically the elderly concerning the risks of cold weather.
In fact, the facility added that the campaign earned the much needed donations which were eventually used for the benefit of the elderly being managed by the institution. Citing statistics, Help the Aged added that the shock tactic in the media is a life reality which drove their message across the public particularly the apparent failure of the government to give the needed and appropriate hospital or nursing care, service and benefits for the elderly.
An evidently disadvantage of such joint media and institution campaign is that it just defeated its purpose of providing any useful and beneficial implication. This is because the Help the Aged poster, in fact, resulted in making the elderly go further or away from the facility rather than making them closer. This only proved that such deliberate shock tactics are indeed offensive and unacceptable and tend to make the public switch to critical response instead of favourable assistance (BBC News 1998).
Media Coverage/PR Plan Specifically involved in this issue as the press officer of a voluntary sector charity in our locality, it is therefore empirical that a strategic media coverage or public relations plan is formulated in order to promote positive media image concerning the caring for the elderly. To receive positive representation of the organization, the proposal is to come with a Crisis Media or Public Relations Program which needs to be implemented in order to reverse the situation.
The situation is to make a direct appeal and the institution must immediately implement an “internal PR campaign” to generate funds that would be enough to support its operation. This would involve an inventory of close relatives of its officials and personnel as well as those of the beneficiaries or the elderly people residing or using the institution’s facilities. Management then can proceed in sending out appeal letters informing them of the true situation and at the same time appeal for donations in cash or goods in order to sustain the needs of the beneficiaries for the coming days.
Thereafter, management should form a team of personnel who will follow-up the requested help. While this contingency plan and stop gap measure is being implemented and pursued, it should proceed to next step which involves a broader market and should now be done with the involvement of the local media. This media component of the PR campaign shall include several activities such as issuance of a carefully crafted news or press release to all local media outlets, including daily and weekly newspapers, radio and free television stations and cable stations.
The news or press release should include details of the finances of the institutions, the number of its sheltered beneficiaries, the monthly financial requirement to support its operations and an appeal for help. There is a need for press conference where a comprehensive briefing shall be made to encourage them to produce positive articles about the institution. Officials of the institution need to visit the offices of the local media entities to establish stronger relations and in the process marshal their continued support.
Periodic press or news releases should be issued to the local media to promote positive media and public image. Another part of the media program should involve efforts at establishing a broader base of financial supporters for the institution which may be achieved through establishment of the institution’s website. Once this proposed program is efficiently implemented, a new public perception about the institution and the people behind it shall be developed and as a result it will be able to count on the continued support of regular donors and the general public.
Ultimately, the preparation and implementation of such positive media coverage or PR program will enhance, advance and protect the new and positive public image of the institution.
List References Andersen, M. L. & Taylor, H. F. (2006) Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society. California: Thomson Wadsworth BBC News Online: UK (1998) Morgue poster slated by pensioners [online] available from < http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/low/uk_news/206098. stm> [15 January 2009] Counts, D. A. & Counts, D. R. (2001) Over the Next Hill: An ethnography of RVing Senior in North America. Canada: Broadview Press Ltd Delloff, L-M.(1987) ‘Distorted Images:
The Elderly and the Media. ’ Christian Century 12. Cited in Brock, T. & Brock, W. (n. d. ) ‘Distorted Images: The Elderly and the Media. ’ Religion-Online Palmore E. B. (1999) Ageism: Negative and Positive. New York: Springer Publishing Company, Inc Has the media been painting a dark picture of life after sixty? (2005) [online] Radio Praha.
29 September 2005:14:31 UTC < http://www. radio. cz/en/article/71059> [14 January 2009] Sawhney, N. (2000) Social Life of the Street: Social behaviour – role of self-expression, place, media & culture [online] available from < http://web.media. mit. edu/~nitin/generals/StreetLife. html> [14 January 2009] Tupper, M. (1995)The Representation of Elderly Persons in Primetime Television Advertising [online] South Florida: University of South Florida.
Available from < http://www. geocities. com/Athens/8237/> [14 January 2009] University of Kentucky (n. d. ) The elderly and the media [online] Kentucky: University of Kentucky. Available from <www. uky. edu/CommInfoStudies/JAT/Telecommunications/520/ElderlyandMedia. ppt> [13 January 2009] Vasil, L. & Wass, H. (1993) ‘Portrayal of the Elderly in the Media: A Literature Review and