Old age is an issue that almost every person eventually has to face in their life. Even though sometimes the aged are depicted as senile and debilitated by the media, many of them still retain much energy.
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To find out how elderly people are depicted on TV, we viewed three different TV shows (two American ones and one from British television). Two of the programs focused on intergenerational topics, concentrating either on the differences between the elderly characters and the younger ones or how they can find some mutual points. Jimmy Kimmel Live (2015) simply showed a competition between an elderly woman and a young girl who had to answer questions about the cultural phenomena popular among the generation of the other contestant. The old woman was portrayed as a person from a different cultural epoch. Age Gap Love (2015), on the other hand, depicted several couples from different countries who married despite considerable age differences; a remarkable couple consisted of an elderly woman Carol (aged 69) and a younger man Paul (aged 43). The man had a severe health condition, so the woman had to care for him more than he had to care for her (Age Gap Love, 2015, 24:30). Therefore, Carol was shown as a person in a better “shape” than Paul. Munchies (2014) portrayed an old lady who grew marijuana for medical purposes on a farm and cooked various meals using cannabis oil. The woman was described as a person who, despite her age, is still active.
While Jimmy Kimmel Live (2015) was mostly built around the stereotype that older people are representatives of an entirely different epoch, Age Gap Love (2015) challenged the popular myths according to which the people of great age are usually lonely, have a severe health condition, and are incapable of doing things on their own (Stewart, Chipperfield, Perry, & Weiner, 2011). In Munchies (2014), the old woman was also portrayed as an active person who looks after her crops, actively communicates with her family, and does jobs in the house; it was also contrary to the popular beliefs that the elderly are passive and cannot do anything by themselves.
In our opinion, a person becomes elderly indeed when, due to their age and the diseases associated with it, they are no longer capable of using their body to be completely self-reliant, and thus have to depend on other people to support them. Such conditions can be connected to muscular weakness, deteriorated cognitive functions, etc. It is impossible to define a particular age when this happens, though, for the period varies for different people. Our opinion, however, is consistent with a definition of aging given by Rose et al. (2012): “a persistent decline in the age-specific fitness components of an organism due to internal physiological deterioration.”
It is noteworthy that nowadays, the process of (social) aging is also dependent on the ability of a person to keep up with new technologies. Given the pace of technological development, many people “grow old” in this respect earlier than they do in the others (Cole, 2014).
Different people behave in various ways when they reach old age. Some of them simply “give up” and want help and attention while they could be somewhat active and independent. Others try to “carry on,” sometimes quite successfully. However, most of them eventually become physically and/or mentally weak before dying and reach a point where they require assistance.
An aged person I know is my friend’s grandfather. He is 73. Despite his age, he is still in good shape. He goes running every morning and is somewhat active. Unfortunately, his hearing has deteriorated significantly over the last few years, so one has to speak loudly while talking to him. Other than that, it is quite hard to call him “elderly.”
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To sum up, it should be stressed that some TV programs portray the aged according to popular stereotypes while others do not. It is also noteworthy that many people still have a rather energetic lifestyle despite the old age.
Age Gap Love. (2015). Age Gap Love | Season 2 Episode 1 | Full Episode. Web.
Cole, T. R. (2014). What’s the point of aging? Does philosophy make a difference? The Gerontologist, 54(3), 519-521. Web.
Jimmy Kimmel Live. (2015). Generation gap. Web.
Munchies. (2014). Weed grandma shows us how to 420 braise it. Web.
Rose, M. R., Flatt, T., Graves, J. L., Greer, L. F., Martinez, D. E. Matos, M.,…Shahrestani, P. (2012). What is aging? Frontiers in Genetics, 3. Web.
Stewart, T. L., Chipperfield, J. G., Perry, R. P., & Weiner, B. (2011). Attributing illness to ‘old age:’ Consequences of a self-directed stereotype for health and mortality. Psychology & Health, 27(8), 881-897. Web.