Advertisers and their agencies stand accused of alienating mid-life women, showing them wearing old-fashioned clothing or being “kooky and struggling with menopause”, with two-thirds of women ceasing to feel represented in the media from the age of just 46.
That is the damning conclusion of a new study carried out by the Centre for Ageing Better and campaign group Ageism Is Never In Style, which also reveals that over half (55%) of UK women over 18 said the way they are portrayed in the media makes them feel “bad about ageing”.
The survey also reveals that as women grow older, the dissatisfaction level with how they are depicted continues to climb, with 82% of women in their 50s saying they are represented “poorly” alongside 89% of 60+.
Women in their 60s in the survey were concerned about being painted as “lonely and lacking in relationships”, while those in their 70s and 80s hated been shown as “frail” or “lonely”.
One in eight women in the survey highlighted the fact that brands and media outlets use models which are younger than the women the product is aimed at, exacerbating their negative feelings around ageing.
Ads and media outlets focusing on work and employment were deemed the worst ageist offenders, with three quarters (73%) of older women saying they were shown in a negative light. Two thirds agreed finance and fashion articles and ads portrayed them poorly, alongside 61% in beauty, plus news and in political context.
The poll also shows a third of all women are particularly concerned about lazy and negative stereotyping in stock images used in ads, social media post, academia, teaching and magazines.
Despite 60% of working age people using or searching for stock images, one in three women quizzed said there is a major problem with a lack of representation with images described as “inauthentic”.
Dr Carole Easton OBE, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “The survey results show that the photos used in the media aren’t representing women in a positive and realistic way, and often resort to inaccurate and limited stereotypes such as old-fashioned clothing, lack of relationships, and frailty.
“It reflects a frustration among older women – when they are represented in the media at all – of being pigeonholed as stereotypes, such as frail and lonely individuals to be pitied or kooky eccentrics that are unrelatable to many. Our survey also confirms that because of this, women are reduced to feeling negative about ageing.”
The survey was carried out to support a new collection of free images, available to download from Ageing Better’s image library and its platform Unsplash.com. The launch will be supported by a social media campaign where women will be encouraged to show how they express themselves and “look their age” regardless of society’s ageist expectations and unhealthy stereotypes.
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