Think about television or movie portrayals of the elderly you have seen and identify both the positive and negative ways older adults are shown in the media. Identify an example of a theoretical perspective of aging and an example of ageism

Portrayal of the Elderly

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Positive Portrayals

Television and movies portray the elderly as individuals who are withdrawn from the society. Unlike the manner in which youths interact actively with each other and with the society, most scenes depict the elderly living alone, and receive company from time to time from family members. In most of the visiting instances, individuals meeting the aged seem to be troubled in their lives and they mostly go there to seek counsel. The society believes that the elderly have much experience and wisdom. Television shows and movies positively portray the elderly as the best advisors.

In addition, the shows portray aged women and men differently. For instance, since women focus more on family and marriage, and men focus on work, at their old age they are portrayed directionless and unhappy until they adopt roles that replace their accustomed roles which are compatible with their disengaged state. Television shows and movies always have a way of portraying the elderly in a positive way.

Negative Portrays

            Although TV shows and movies try as much to portray the elderly in a positive way, there are negative portrayals that arise. Their roles of engaging in different activities is usually minimal. When the communities prepare for activities, the youths and the middle aged adults are more involved. The elderly are not engaged in any of preparation activities. They are portrayed as individuals with less mental and physical capabilities.

In most instances, they are portrayed as the weakest individuals who sometimes need to be supported in their physical activities such as walking around and feeding. For instance, in shows such as Golden Girls, Sophia is tactless and blunt while in Boston Legal show, Denny crane is also tactless, blunt and madly racist. Like in these two examples, in most others cases, the aged are negatively portrayed as depressed, lonely, sickly, slow-witted, rude, depressed, behind the times, ugly, heartless, hard-of-hearing, interfering and grumpy. Some of these portrayals emanate from stereotypes and may not be the reality (Alexander, 2015).

Examples of Theoretical Perspective of Aging and Ageism

Perspectives of ageing and ageism are used by sociologists who try to find out the roles played by senior citizens in people’s lives, how people interact and relate with older people and older people’s role in their communities, neighborhoods, states or cities. Examples of the perspectives used include symbolic interactionism, functionalism and the conflict theory.

Functionalism theoretical perspective analyzes the manner in which different parts of the society work together. Here, sociologists gauge the way parts of the society work together to ensure a smoothly running society. According to this perspective, the elderly form one of the society’s vital parts. Functionalists argue that individuals who have better resources and stay active in different roles, are able to adjust better during their old age. Disengagement theory, the earliest gerontological theory, suggests that it is natural for people to withdraw from social and society relationships as they grow old (Wells, 2010). According to this theory, the natural withdrawal arises from the fact that people expect to die one day, and that they experience mental and physical decline when approaching death. Also, as the elderly withdraw, they have less reinforcement that conforms to social norms. Withdrawal, therefore provides them more freedom from the conformity pressure.


Alexander, S. (2015). We’re Tired of These Stereotypes of Older People in the Media. Retrieved from

Wells, A. (2010). Conflict Theory and Functionalism: Introductory Sociology Textbooks, 1928-1976. Teaching Sociology, 6(4), 429.

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