Study looking at ageism in media and social isolation of seniors

By Charlene Tebbutt
July 18, 2018 - 10:21am Updated: July 18, 2018 - 12:05pm

A dearth of media coverage across Saskatchewan about older people and the issues and interests that affect them has an impact on how seniors feel about themselves.

That’s according to Linda Anderson, media and ageism project coordinator with the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism (SSM). Anderson was in Prince Albert Tuesday talking about ageism in media. 

The SSM has partnered with the Canadian Red Cross, the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit on a three-year study looking at ways to reduce social isolation among seniors. The group is also working with the Lifelong Learning Centre and the Fédération des Aînés Fransaskois.

As part of its work, the SSM's Ageism and Media committee developed a style guide for media with tips on avoiding ageist language.

“It’s important to recognize people accurately in media, because they actually listen to the messages that come out from radio, papers, television,” Anderson told paNOW. “So if the messages, the stories are both realistic and positive, that helps an older person feel that, 'yes, I’m still valuable and I’m of use in society.'”

The SSM received funding from the federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors Program for the project, to study isolation among seniors in south central Saskatchewan, from Prince Albert south to the province’s border. Anderson said the overall goal of the three-year project is to lessen the amount of isolation amongst older people, which can lead to a lower quality of life and poorer health.

“We want quality of life for everybody, whether you’re old or not,” she added.

Anderson said the group will be monitoring media stories across the province early in 2019 to see if their message has been effective. A similar study in February of 2017 found that most news stories involving seniors were about significant age milestones, retirement, or described older people using terms such as “forever young,” “spry” or “feisty.”

“We always think that there’s room for improvement, and I think that the media maybe forgets that those are some good stories too," Anderson said. 


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On Twitter: @CharleneTebbutt

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