The Role of Media in the Construction of Aging
Just a few days ago, an article on the cost of health care was posted on the New York Times website. For the most part, author and economist Uwe Reinhardt spoke of the seeming fallacy regarding the aging population as the cause of the rising national health care expenditure. Reinhardt claims that statistical illustrations being presented to the public and on state health conferences are ill representations of actual findings. An example of which is the graph on the Projected Percentage of the US Population Aged 65 Years and Over that shows an exaggerated rise by the year 2010 until it reaches its peak at 20. 5% in 2035 (Reinhardt, 2008).
According to Reinhardt, the misrepresentation hails from limiting the vertical axis between 12% up to 22% as opposed to its proper scaling of 0% to 100%. One of the more sensational effects of this particular “form of lying with statistics” is the contentious Baby Boom Tsunami (Reinhardt, 2008, Why Does U. S. Health Care Cost So Much section, para. 6). Moreover, this graph has been used time and again to lay inappropriate blame on the aging population as the root cause of elevated health care costs.
The author presented the article with a degree of cynicism directed towards health authorities and governing bodies responsible for the misleading information. Although he did not put “aging” in a negative light, the article in itself is proof of how the elderly population is deemed as a social problem. Constant emphasis on news articles and programs on the aged as a financial burden in society further aggravates feelings of self pity, helplessness and, isolation that often envelopes the elderly population.
In addition, towards the end of his article, Reinhardt mentioned, in a somewhat jovial manner, “relative to other nations we shall be “forever young”” (2008, Why Does U. S. Health Care Cost So Much section, para. 9). This phrase can easily add to apprehensions that are already present when people are nearing old age. It is tantamount to saying that being old is neither favorable nor joyful. Unsurprisingly, and perhaps unknowingly, this mindset is duplicated by the public. Article 2
The second article addresses one of the more taboo issues concerning the elderly, which is sex. It is apparent where the younger public stands regarding this issue but what is actually surprising about the article is that learned people, even those with medical and psychological background, admits to having the same sentiment when it comes to older people having sex. In fact, the whole article focuses on nursing home employees owning to the need for further instructions in dealing with sexually active elders in their care.
In a conversation between LiveScience, organizational author of the article and, Gayle Doll, director of Kansas State University’s Center on Aging, Gayle admits that the image of her grandparents engaging in sexual activities is an unpleasant thought she would rather not experience (LiveScience, 2008). LiveScience maintained its neutrality throughout the article, actually almost bordering on the affirmative side. The fact that health care workers are willing to adjust to the needs of their charges also sends positive reinforcement to the aged population.
In this instance, the construction of aging is being redefined, where as the thought of elderly sexual relations may have been objectionable in the past, it is now being slowly integrated in the society. Obvious efforts from various sectors related to this discipline has aided the cause, however, it is undeniable that media played the biggest role in support of this perspective. A good example is how the idea of “Viagra” has come a long way from being introduced in the market a decade ago, to what it stands for now. Owing to the constant media attention, Viagra is now a common household name that is neither shameful nor derogatory.
With the media’s approval and consequent social acceptance, the aged population gained the freedom to explore the use of the “wonder drug”. Article 3 In 2002, a television broadcast on upsetting news regarding a Senate Report on crimes being committed inside nursing homes was featured in CNN. Reportedly, 20% of existent nursing homes all over the US have had some form of unreported crime committed against elderly patients by nursing home operators themselves. Most of the crimes involve sexual and physical abuse, resulting in broken bones and pregnancy inside the nursing home.
According to the discussion that ensued during the show, local law enforcement authorities are “hesitant” to put the crimes on record, preferring nursing homes to handle the situation on their own. The lack of interest from law enforcers coupled with limited visits from family and relatives allowed for the dire events. The topic under discussion, appropriately presented in a negative light, is very disturbing especially since most of the elderly residing in nursing homes has some form of disability, whether psychological or physical, that renders them helpless to the attack.
On the other hand, the role of media in this scenario is positive to the welfare of the aged. Demonstrating the power of media in stirring responses from the public, broadcasts on controversial news such as this one could facilitate in the betterment of circumstances. Conversely, this article also represents facts that further place the elderly as a social problem. The social problem stems from the demand for public awareness on conditions that are real to the aged population. Article 4
The last article is an analysis of a poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times in 2002 regarding issues that Americans are faced with when aging. Questions were cast to over 1,500 elderly citizens aged 60 years and over via the telephone. Most of the issues that were addressed are the issues that have been discussed in class. It must be noted however, that certain limitations to having telephone surveys apply, apparently, most of the respondents spoken to lives in homes of their own or shared with a family member.
Still, surprisingly, based on the results of the poll made, majority of the elderly population seem to be confident, self-assured, financially stable, emotionally secure and, actually looking forward to retirement years with no apparent fears of impending death. Although the results shed in this article places aging in a good light, it is my opinion, which is also based on what has already been learned in class, that the results of the poll is inaccurate to the fact. Several factors contributed to the failure of arriving at a reliable conclusion. First is the aforementioned methodology of the study.
Since the majority of the elderly community in nursing homes has not been properly represented, it is congruent to say that the study is bias to the better half of the elderly population. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that people in group studies are mindful of what they say, especially when informed of the purpose of the interview. In such cases, people tend to alter their responses therefore affecting the overall results of the study. Issues that have been addressed in this study fits very well with the constructions of aging as a social problem.
In fact, if the results of the study went otherwise, as I believe it should have, issues regarding the psychological and physiological well being of the elderly should be of major social concern for the whole country. Although the media failed to give accurate results on the whole population, it is still very interesting to see that the elderly is able to rise above their value in years when human needs are sufficiently available. Synthesis Over the years, numerous articles and television broadcasts regarding the plight of the aged population have been written and shown for public knowledge and discernment.
The literature presented in this paper is but a fraction of what is available out there. For the purposes of this paper, however, a collective review of the four articles is essential at arriving at a conclusion of how the society perceives aging as it is portrayed by the media. Although the articles presented in this paper are a mixture of the good and the bad, the intentions of the various authors of the articles are predominantly positive to the cause of the elderly population. Most of the literature focuses on doing right by the aged citizens of this country.
The overall image of the elderly however, is a stereotype of how an aged person is supposed to act and what the aged person can actually do. The only contradiction to the generalization is the results of the poll study which basically implies that the elderly community is active and self-reliant. The inconsistency in the overall image of the elderly is not at all expected but given the reasons behind the misleading notion presented in the last article, it is understandable how the authors were able to come up with a different image of the aged society.
Nevertheless, all the authors seem to agree that the responsibility of watching out for the elder population is a social concern that needs to be addressed on a personal level by avoiding typecasting and taking time to fulfill the social needs of your own and, on a national level by directing efforts towards quality health care and vigilant supervision of health care delivery. References Armet E. , Pinkus, S. , & Richardson, J. (2000, April 2). Poll Analysis: Aging in America. Los Angeles Times on the Web.
Retrieved December 7, 2008, from http://www. latimes. com/news/nationworld/timespoll/la-000402agingpoll-431pa1an,0,5609854. htmlstory Harris, L. (Show Host). (2002, March 4). Breaux: Nursing home crimes underreported [Broadcast Transcript]. CNN Inside Politics. Retrieved December 7, 2008, from CNN Access database. URL: http://edition. cnn. com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/03/04/breaux. cnna/index. html LiveScience. (2008, November 18). Experts want to lift taboo on nursing home sex: Survey shows staff feels it’s a topic they need to be educated about.
MSNBC on the Web. Retrieved December 7, 2008, from http://www. msnbc. msn. com/id/27790746/ Reinhardt, U. E. (2008, December 5). Why Does U. S. Health Care Cost So Much? (Part III: An Aging Population Isn’t the Reason. ) New York Times on the Web. Retrieved December 7, 2008, from http://economix. blogs. nytimes. com/2008/12/05/why-does-us-health-care-cost-so-much-part-iii-an-aging-population-isnt-the-reason/? scp=1&sq=news%20regarding%20the%20elderly%20population%20in%20the%20US%20&st=cseSample Essay of Custom-Writing