Despite the tremendous increase in the number of older Americans, only 5 percent of ads sampled over the last 100 years in two of the largest national magazines portrayed older people.
And the images of older adults that have appeared tend to reinforce stereotypes about both aging in general and aging women in particular, according to a study presented at the Gerontological Society of Americas meeting in July.
The creators of print ads often see themselves as shaping popular consciousness, says W. Andrew Achenbaum, deputy director of the Institute of Gerontology and a professor of history.
But the creators of the print ads we reviewed seem to be mired in a cultural lag. Theyre out of date and out of touch with the changing realities of an aging America.
For the study, Achenbaum and Uni-versity of Massachusetts graduate students Marianne Matzo and Christopher Rockett analyzed ads in issues of Ladies Home Journal and Time magazine at 20-year intervals from 1889 to 1989.
They analyzed the types of products represented, the major activities portrayed by models in the ads, and whether the models were young or old. To determine whether models were old, the researchers relied on references in the copy to age, grandparenting and retirement; the presence of extensive gray hair, wrinkled skin on the face and hands; and the use of ambulatory aids such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs.
Among the study findings: