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This guide developed by the NSW Ministerial Advisory Council on Ageing is to help journalists and other professionals working in the media to appropriately portray older people. It includes practical advice about what to consider when reporting on older people and on issues related to ageing. This list includes some things to think about when developing material about older people:

Key points to Think About:

– How is the person’s age important to the story?

A person’s age does not define them. It may be more appropriate to detail their amount of experience, for example, ‘Michelle has over forty years’ experience in the banking sector’.

– How will the older person’s voice be included in the story?

Like people of all ages and backgrounds, people who are older have their own distinct opinions and beliefs. Generalising about the views of ‘older people’ as a uniform group can impact the accuracy of the story.

– How are the older person’s contributions described?

People continue to contribute to the community and the economy in a variety of ways as they age. Achievements of an older person should be presented without being inappropriately framed as a remarkable feat. It may be helpful to think about how you would report on the same achievement of a younger person with the same level of experience and wellbeing, to help ensure language does not patronise older people.

– Is the person’s age framed as a barrier?

A person’s age does not indicate their ability to contribute to the community. Wording such as ‘despite being 88 years old’ suggests people are limited by their age, instead of focusing on their level of skill and ability.

–  When reporting on ageing issues it is important that equal focus is given to both the challenges and opportunities?

An ageing population creates change that can bring both challenges and opportunities. For example, there can be challenges in delivering services, but may also be new opportunities, such as expanded markets for goods and services tailored towards people who are older.

– Does the story highlight diversity among older people?

People value media that shows the diversity within the older population, rather than relying on stereotypes that lump older people together.

–  Does the story focus on the person’s past or present contributions?

Recognising the current contribution of older people is equally important as their past contributions. Stories with a purely retrospective angle that focus on an older person’s contribution in their youth, for example, war stories, fail to acknowledge the present contribution of an older person to society

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